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Harford Drug Task Force Goes Undercover, Uproots Spice Operation

Two stores selling synthetic marijuana in Edgewood were across the street from one another, police said.

(Credit: Harford County Sheriff's Office)
(Credit: Harford County Sheriff's Office)
Charges are pending against clerks and owners at two Edgewood convenience stores after authorities found they were selling Spice—synthetic marijuana, which is illegal in Maryland—according to the Harford County Sheriff's Office.

Officials seized thousands of dollars' worth of paraphernalia and uncovered a scam involving food stamps at one of the stores following a months-long investigation into Mystik Mart (1713 Hanson Rd.) and Royal Lands (1712 Hanson Rd.), the report from the Harford County Sheriff's Office said.

A task force—including DEA agents, Harford deputies, Maryland State Police, the Harford County State's Attorney's Office and officers from Aberdeen, Bel Air and Havre de Grace police departments—began investigating in March after receiving multiple reports that the stores were selling Spice to adults and juveniles, according to the Harford County Sheriff's Office.

Undercover officers then purchased Spice at both locations and obtained a search and seizure warrant for each business, according to the report from the sheriff's office.

Spice is marketed as synthetic marijuana, made of dried herbs sprayed with chemicals that can be toxic. The American Association of Poison Control Centers reports it has received more than 1,000 cases of Spice-related poisoning so far this year between January and May.

Several ingredients in Spice were federally banned in 2012 and in Maryland the following year.

During the investigation, officers recovered 148 grams of the synthetic marijuana at Royal Lands and 20 grams of Spice at Mystik Mart in seizures on June 11, the report said.

Authorities also found evidence that the Royal Lands owner was accepting food stamps in exchange for cash with a 100 percent surcharge, according to the report. Police estimated the charges annually totaled $169,000, with the business owner pocketing more than $99,000, the report said.

The United States Department of Agriculture is working to suspend the store's ability to participate in the food stamps program, according to the sheriff's office, which reported the Royal Lands store owner may face theft and fraud charges.

Felony charges against several Mystik Mart and Royal Lands store clerks and owners are pending, including possession with intent to distribute, distribution of synthetic marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia with the intent to distribute and maintaining a common nuisance, according to the sheriff's office.

At Royal Lands, the task force reported finding approximately $5,059 in cash and $5,340 in seized items, listed below:
  • 39 marijuana smoking pipes
  • 148 grams of spice
  • 90 "Love Roses" for conversion to crack pipes
  • Copper crack pipe filter pads
  • Six marijuana grinders
  • Seven digital scales
  • 530 packages of glassine baggies of varying sizes and colors to package drugs (total of 53,000 individual bags)
  • Bulk package of single-edge razor blades
At Mystik Mart, police said officers found $5,924 in cash and $2,255 in the following seized items:
  • 13 marijuana grinders
  • 20 grams of spice
  • More than 60 marijuana smoking pipes
  • Pipe screens
  • 13 marijuana grinders
  • Approximately 40 glass case pens for conversion to crack pipes
  • Copper crack pipe filter pads
  • 20 digital scales
While items like grinders and pipes are legal in their original state or packaging, "they do become illegal when they are converted for drug use or when we can clearly show, based on other facts and evidence seized, that they’re being used for illegal means," Capt. Lee Dunbar, who is the commander of the Harford County drug task force, told Patch.

"We remain committed to targeting these businesses in an attempt to remove the availability of such a dangerous product from the young population of Harford County who are continuing to use these items thinking they are safe," Dunbar said.

People using Spice may experience paranoia, hallucinations, elevated mood, altered perception, relaxation, reduced blood supply to the heart, agitation, heart attack, vomiting and rapid heart rate, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Poison control centers report that users may exhibit severe behavior changes, including harming themselves or others and at times necessitating admission to psychiatric hospitals.

"The Harford County Task Force utilizes all the resources it can to protect the citizens of this county and would like to thank the United States Department of Agriculture for their assistance with these cases and future investigations," Dunbar noted. According to Dunbar, both stores remain open.
Elizabeth Janney July 08, 2014 at 03:08 PM
They weren't provided, as charges are still pending.
OldHarfordCounty July 08, 2014 at 10:45 PM
That's a lot of agencies and man power for $3500 in drugs. The rest of the stuff is all legal. The funniest is "Copper crack pipe filter pads" which is the same thing you buy to scrub a pan with... Two stores across from each other. Maybe we should condemn the entire Harford Square and Meadowood areas and let Wal-Mart build there.
Al July 09, 2014 at 07:43 AM
Not sure of the issue...this is basic supply and demand. You always put your supplies nearest the demand. Lets just get over the whole drug thing and focus resources elsewhere... we kid ourself that it is under control. You could sent that Task Force out everyday and they would arrest folks, there is NO deterrent.
Harford County Native July 09, 2014 at 07:54 AM
I was wondering when they would finally get busted. This has been going on for years. Yea the copper filters are used for pipe smokers you could also use the filter screen out of a faucet. I guess the next place should be the Tabaco store up in the shopping center near Big Lots is. They sell the same stuff including the fake stuff.
Eddie Stevenson July 09, 2014 at 05:04 PM
168 grams of spice. 4 grams per bag. 42 bags of spice x $20.00 each = $840 worth of spice.

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