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Drug sweep targets same three stores
Authorities seize more than 1,700 bags of synthetic marijuana
Javed Panjwani

For the second time in about a month, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office has confiscated synthetic marijuana from several local businesses.

Undercover narcotics investigators on Tuesday took 880 bags from Puff and Stuff Smoke Shop and 771 bags from King John Smoke Shop.

On Wednesday, 87 bags were removed from Heads Off Smoke Shop. And the operation continued Thursday night, when 170 bags were seized at Save Money Food Mart.

It was the first time authorities had confiscated the substances at Save Money Food Mart.

According to a sheriff’s report, undercover deputies found the synthetic marijuana hidden in several locations, including a storage cooler, knit hat and bags hidden behind boxes.

“Customers were coming in to the store to buy the synthetic marijuana while the officers were there,” said Sheriff Ted Paxton. “This leads us to believe that it’s being sold here on a regular basis.

“Incidents throughout the country have already shown that the substances being sold are dangerous. The primary customers of the synthetic marijuana are our high school and college-age young adults.”

In the agency’s first sweep on June 13, investigators seized more than 1,900 bags of synthetic marijuana, commonly called spice, from the same locations. The items had an estimated value of about $28,000.

The value of the some 1,900 bags seized last week was not immediately known.

Sheriff’s office spokeswoman Karleen Chalker said the sweep in June came days after the state Board of Pharmacy adopted an emergency rule that gave authorities the ability to seize from businesses synthetic marijuana with new compounds not yet identified by Georgia law.

“It only gives us the ability to go in there and act as agents of the state board of pharmacy and the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency,” Chalker said.

The law does not give the agency the power to arrest those selling or distributing the substance unless it has been tested and proven to contain an illegal chemical compound, she said.

However, Javed “John” Panjwani, the listed owner of King John, was arrested Tuesday during the sweep for a previous violation of selling synthetic marijuana to undercover officers in March.

The substance had since been sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations crime lab for testing, which came back positive for a Schedule 1 substance illegal in the state, Chalker said.

Panjwani reportedly sold the product to the officers at the Country Cupboard Shell Gas Station on Dahlonega Highway, but an arrest could not be made until it had been tested.

In May, he was arrested on a commercial gambling charge and released on bond.

For the most recent arrest, Panjwani will not receive bond due to violating his current release, Chalker said.

She added that authorities also contacted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which had a hold on Panjwani.

In a statement, Paxton hailed those who had provided tips about businesses carrying the products and urged the public to continue to provide information.

“We are going to remain diligent in monitoring the distributors,” Paxton said. “We are going to keep going back to these businesses to ensure they are following the law.”

The Forsyth County commission is considering a local law that is aimed at ramping up the ability to combat synthetic marijuana.

The proposed ordinance intends to address similar substances that the state law does not cover.

The move also reflects how manufacturers of products intended to simulate the effects of marijuana continue to change the chemical compounds to stay ahead of the state's bans.

In the county’s proposal, it would be a violation to sell, manufacture, possess or distribute synthetic marijuana not regulated by the state.

The first public hearing was held July 5, and the board will have the ability to adopt the law after the second hearing, which likely will be next month.