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2 Smoke Shops In San Diego County Fined For Selling Spice

Packages of the street drug called "spice" bought by undercover San Diego police officers appear in this undated photo.
San Diego City Attorney's Office
Packages of the street drug called "spice" bought by undercover San Diego police officers appear in this undated photo.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis announced civil settlements Tuesday in consumer-protection cases against two local smoke shops that have illegally sold so-called Spice, a synthetic marijuana substitute that can lead to debilitating and life-threatening reactions in users.

The operators of Smoke Zone in Pacific Beach and Outer Limits in Oceanside have accepted a permanent injunction prohibiting the sale of the illicit drug and agreed to pay civil penalties of $24,600 and $33,750, respectively, prosecutors said.

Since January 2012, selling synthetic cannabinoid compounds — including psychoactive "bath salts" and certain herbal incenses — has been illegal in California.


Spice is made by mixing chemicals imported from China with acetone and spraying the compound on plant material so the end product looks like marijuana.

RELATED: San Diego Aims To Broaden Ban On Synthetic Drug ‘Spice’

With no regulation over the illicit manufacturing of Spice, it has freely flowed into distribution networks that supply smoke shops, convenience stores and other retailers, where it is billed as "legal pot," according to Dumanis' office.

Last fall and winter, emergency personnel responded to three outbreaks of Spice overdoses involving a combined total of more than two dozen patients who had smoked the drug in downtown San Diego.

Abusers of Spice sometimes wind up at poison-control centers with symptoms that include rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion and hallucinations. The substance also can raise blood pressure and lead to reduced blood supply to the heart.


Despite such incidents and the state ban on Spice, convenience stores, smoke shops and other retailers have continued to sell it, according to police.

Some brand names under which the drug is marketed include "Mr. Nice Guy," "California Dreams," "Scooby Snax," "Green Buddha," "24K" and "Nuclear Bomb."

"This designer drug has been shown to be dangerous and, in some cases, deadly," Dumanis said.

"Our consumer-protection unit has been warning stores not to sell these illegal substances. Through civil actions, we're working to protect the public by holding retailers accountable when they ignore the law."

The District Attorney's Office also has filed a civil complaint against Inner World, another smoke shop in Oceanside found to be selling Spice, and obtained a temporary restraining order to prevent the business from continuing to sell it. A San Diego Superior Court judge will consider turning the temporary restraining order into a preliminary injunction next week.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Naval Criminal Investigative Service have conducted a series of undercover operations at such businesses, determining that they were selling synthetic marijuana containing chemicals outlawed by the state or controlled substances banned by the federal government.

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