Spice Manufacturers Stay Ahead of Regulators - 8 News NOW

I-Team: Spice Manufacturers Stay Ahead of Regulators

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LAS VEGAS -- A dangerous drug is on store shelves throughout the Las Vegas area, despite efforts by state regulators to ban it.

Following a recent I-Team investigation into synthetic marijuana, or Spice, the Nevada Pharmacy Board took emergency action and banned the substance. But manufacturers are changing their formulas to skirt the law, putting children at risk.

Chris Wrath's father says he had never heard of Spice until his son killed himself following Spice-induced hallucinations. To protect kids, state regulators have twice outlawed some of the compounds found in spice. Yet it remains widely available in almost every part of the valley.

Ken Lowery is not technically the Spice police, but in his role as the City of Henderson's business license supervisor, he is as effective as anyone at getting the dangerous drug off store shelves.

"I have the backing of the city to say that we are going to do something. We're not just going to let you sit there and sell it and let the kids blow their brains out with these psychotic highs they're getting," he said.

Following action by the pharmacy board late last year outlawing some of the compounds found in Spice, Lowery ordered Henderson retailers to stop selling it. Regular enforcement followed and during a recent string of unannounced visits, the product often labeled as incense or potpourri was nowhere to be found.

Notice to Henderson Businesses

But travel outside Henderson city limits and Spice can be found smoke shops valley-wide, despite warnings by both Las Vegas and Clark County business licensing to stop selling products that contain the banned compounds.

Clark County Letter to Retailers

Spice manufacturers have responded to regulatory efforts by changing their formula, and then re-stocking retailers with supposedly legal blends. To check those claims, 8 News NOW tested two samples -- one from a local smoke shop and the other from a young man who killed himself during a Spice-induced psychotic episode.

According to NMS Labs, both samples complied with the law at the time of testing.

"It's criminal in my mind," said Larry Pinson with the Nevada Pharmacy Board. "Our approach now is to keep banging on it. If the stuff shows up we will schedule it and we'll get it off the shelves and hopefully we'll get to a point where it's too expensive for them to keep replenishing and redoing things."

Rather than debate what is or isn't legal, Lowery in has enforced an all out ban.

"If I find the product, I'm going to go and have the product tested and get a warrant if you're selling bad stuff," he said.

The threat alone seems to have Henderson store owners clearing their inventory following regular visits by the unofficial Spice police.

Henderson's efforts have been successful in large part because it only has about 30 smoke shops, as opposed to the hundreds in Las Vegas and Clark County. To get Spice off the shelves everywhere, some are exploring a ban of the sale of Spice in stores. That would take legislative action when it reconvenes next year.

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