San Diego

Police Arrest Hillcrest Smoke Shop Employee in Spice Drug Raid

The employee was arrested for possessing spice and stimulants

San Diego Police raided the Godfather Smoke Shop in Hillcrest and arrested an employee for illegal possession of a synthetic drug and stimulants Tuesday.

Loay Lawrence, 55, was arrested for possession of one-third of a pound of the synthetic drug spice and 375 pills of the illegal stimulant Kratom.

Carla Pereira owns a tailoring shop nearby, and she and her employees have had a window seat to the spice problem just a few doors down.

"As they took that or smoked that they would pass out on the floor,” said Pereira. “One guy he just passed out here for an hour. It looked like he was dead."

City leaders sounded the alarm after spice overdoses in downtown San Diego in 2015.

Police say the problem peaked at nearly 200 overdoses in early 2016.

In June of that same year, a spice ordinance was passed making it illegal to sell or possess spice and other synthetic drugs.

San Diego Police Lt. Matt Novak says the drug ordinance has helped cut down on an issue that has sewn itself into the fabric of the homeless community because of the quick, cheap high.

Miriam Martinez, one of the employees at the next-door tailor shop, said she is noticing a difference after the raid.

“I’ve seen today less homeless than a couple of days or weeks ago. So maybe it’s going to make a difference,” said Martinez.

Police said Lawrence could face up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine for possessing the synthetic drug.

Police are still investigating if the owner had knowledge of the illegal activity.

While the store has not been closed by city officials, it may be fined, according to police.

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