Tacoma market busted for selling 'zombie' drug

Tacoma market busted for selling 'zombie' drug

A Tacoma convenience store was shuttered this week after police arrested the manager for allegedly selling an illegal drug called spice. Peter Haley phaley@thenewstribune.com

TACOMA, Wash. — A Tacoma convenience store was shuttered this week after police arrested the manager for allegedly selling an illegal drug called spice.

Detectives set up an undercover operation in February after hearing that the synthetic cannabinoid was being sold at Stop'Mart, 1501 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

An officer was able to buy a pinkish-purple packed labeled “Ripped” for $20 from the clerk, court records show. The package contents later tested as spice.

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Undercover officers again returned to the market Monday and made another purchase.

When they returned later that day, police seized 590 grams of the drug worth $2,800 and $4,230 in cash, records show.

The 47-year-old manager pleaded not guilty Tuesday to two counts of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance and one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. He was released on his own recognizance.

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No one picked up the phone at Stop’Mart Wednesday and a phone number for the manager could not be located.

A decision has not been made yet about whether the business will lose its liquor license, according to a spokesman with the state Liquor and Cannabis Board.

"We’re looking at the circumstances in their totality," spokesman Brian Smith said.

Spice is also known as the zombie drug, fake weed and K2. To make it, a chemical is sprayed over leaves to give it the appearance of marijuana but police say it is closer to drugs like bath salts.

Most users roll it in papers and smoke it.

Spice is known to cause hallucinations, violent fits, paranoia, vomiting, elevated blood pressure and catatonia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The drug has been illegal in Washington state since 2011.

It garnered headlines in recent years in a series of accidents nationwide, and as outbreaks were reported in major cities like New York City, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas.

In 2015, NFL Draft prospect Robert Nkemdiche fell out of his Atlanta hotel window while on the drug. He allegedly believed somebody was chasing him when he broke through the glass and fell 15 feet.

In 2016, then-New England Patriots defensive lineman Chandler Jones had a bad reaction to synthetic marijuana and had to be hospitalized.

Research by the New England Journal of Medicine shows at least 20 people died from August 2011 to April 2015 due to synthetic marijuana.

Click here to read the full story on the Tacoma News Tribune.