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Synthetic pot seized in sweep
Authorities checking up with stores
Members of the Forsyth County Sheriff's narcotics unit searched five area businesses Wednesday, taking more than 1,900 bags of synthetic marijuana, commonly called spice, which is illegal. - photo by Jim Dean

About $28,000 worth of illegal merchandise was removed from the shelves of four Forsyth County businesses Wednesday night.

The sweep by the Forsyth County Sheriff’s narcotics unit was conducted in conjunction with an emergency state ruling, which gives authorities the ability to confiscate synthetic marijuana, commonly called spice.

The visits to several area businesses netted more than 1,900 bags of spice, bath salts or K2, authorities said. The bags will be sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s crime lab for testing.

In the days ahead, drug officers will be visiting other stores throughout the county to assure they are complying with the emergency rule.

The rule, signed by Gov. Nathan Deal, came about at the request of the Georgia State Board of Pharmacy. It classifies newly discovered compounds of synthetic marijuana, allowing for officers to seize the drug. The rule does not, however, allow for an arrest.

“The General Assembly will have to address any criminal penalties for the new versions of the synthetic marijuana,” said Forsyth County Sheriff Ted Paxton said. “Right now, all we have the authority to do is confiscate the product.”

Of the five stores authorities visited Wednesday, just one — The Smoke Shop on Hwy. 9 — had complied with the rule and removed the items, Paxton said.

“At all four of the other locations, we confiscated synthetic marijuana that we estimate having a value of $28,000,” the sheriff said, adding that amount is based on the prices listed on the products.

According to the sheriff’s office, the other visits yielded the following:

* Al’s Quick Stop on Dahlonega Highway, 324 bags, valued at about $5,060

* Heads Off Smoke Shop on Atlanta Highway, 105 bags, valued at about $1,755

* King John Smoke Shop on Keith Bridge Road, 1,073 bags, valued at about $14,185

* Puff & Stuff on Atlanta Road, 437 bags, valued at about $7,001

“We are going to continue to remain diligent in monitoring the distributors of these substances,” Paxton said. “Until this emergency rule was passed on Monday, law enforcement’s hands were tied as far as dealing with synthetic marijuana.

“We applaud the rule and see this as a huge step toward keeping these dangerous substances out of the hands of our citizens so lives can be saved.”