An employee at Andy's Smoke Shop in Hillcrest has been arrested for selling the synthetic drug spice after the store was caught in violation of a City ordinance and a recent cease and desist order, San Diego Police (SDPD) said.
The City of San Diego ordinance, considered the toughest of its kind in the state of California, bans the sale, manufacture, possession and distribution of spice and related drugs.
Spice, or K2, is a chemical mixture sprayed on to a plant substance that users can then smoke or ingest to achieve a similar effect to marijuana. It is sold under a variety of names, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Employees at Andy’s Smoke Shop, located at 550 University Avenue, were first found to have sold the drug earlier this year. The city issued a cease and desist notice after the first violation.
When the owners of the store met with a City Attorney representative in May 2016, the owners agreed to permanently stop selling spice.
Approximately month later, on June 14, the City of San Diego enacted a new ordinance banning the possession and sales of synthetic drugs, including spice.
The owners were notified of the ordinance, but on June 28, they were served with a court order prohibiting spice sales from the store.
Several months later, in August, narcotic detectives learned the illegal drug was still being sold at the smoke shop.
After obtaining a search warrant, detectives searched the property and recovered approximately two pounds of spice in bulk quantity and packaged for sale. The drug can lead to medical emergencies such as seizures, comas and hallucinations.
Store employee Ossam Shaba, 55, was arrested for violating a court order and possession for sales of synthetic drugs, police said. Authorities said they found the drugs on Shaba, in his car and inside the store. He was booked into jail; the City Attorney’s office will prosecute the case.
NBC 7 spoke to several people at businesses near Andy's Smoke Shop who said they are hoping that after Thursday's incident, the drug and transient culture in the area will change.
Matthew Lowe works at a restaurant close by and told NBC 7 that his tip jar was looted, ice cream had been stolen and his facade defiled by intoxicated individuals passing by.
“You see the people around here that are under the influence spice, it just gives it a bad look,” Lowe said. “If they can't get [spice] in the neighborhood, then they're not going to be around here."
Kassidy Recendiz runs the spa next door.
“It's definitely very sad. We don't want to see people dying or getting sick, we already have enough drugs out there that are not good for people,” she said.
Meanwhile, an employee from Andy's Smoke Shop was left to clean up after detectives searched through the store on Thursday.
Samir Kazkorkis told NBC 7 that the store does not sell spice and that it was unfairly targeted.
But police said the store had been selling the synthetic drug after it had been banned.
Those who violate the drug ordinance face criminal and civil penalties up to and including six months in jail, a $1,000 fine, or three years’ probation and a $2,500 fine, depending on the circumstances of the violation.