Hudson Police Inform Store Owners of the Dangers of ‘Spice’

August 22, 2014
A flier distributed by the DEA and used by the HPD in their effort to inform store owners about the product ‘Spice’

A flier distributed by the DEA and used by the HPD in their effort to inform store owners about the product ‘Spice’

by Marc Ayotte

A State of Emergency was recently declared in the State of New Hampshire.

The following are excerpts contained in the press release from New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan’s office on August 14:

In order to protect public health and well-being, Governor Maggie Hassan today declared a State of Emergency in the State of New Hampshire as a result of recent overdoses in Manchester and Concord as a result of the use or misuse of the synthetic cannabinoid identified as “Smacked!”

Generally referred to as “spice,” synthetic cannabinoids are chemically engineered substances similar to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana.  While they are labeled as not for human consumption, “herbal incense” products of this type are known to be ingested by smoking or brewing into a tea because they contain synthetic cannabinoids.

Other brands of synthetic cannabinoids may also pose dangers for substance abuse and public health.  Stores are encouraged to voluntarily remove all synthetic cannabinoids from their shelves.

Earlier on the same day that Governor Hassan issued the State of Emergency, this reporter had a chance to sit down and discuss the “Spice” situation in the Town of Hudson with HPD Detective Sergeant Jason Lucontoni and Detective David Cayot.  Also that same day, the two detectives were visiting stores around town with a dual purpose:   to discover if the substance was being carried or sold in any location and to inform and educate store owners about the legal ramifications associated with possessing the product as well as the health issues involved with the use of the substance.

In confirming what came out in the governor’s press release, Sergeant Lucontoni described the product in question as a “leafy substance that was sprayed with a synthetic chemical.”  Lucontoni went on to say that there has been an increase in the product being sold in southern New Hampshire.  He noted that the product has been around since around 2010-2011 and that, at about the same time, the Drug Enforcement Administration had outlawed the sale of the substance, based on its chemical composition at the time.

However, as Detective Cayot indicated, the manufacturers keep changing the chemicals as a means of circumventing the DEA restrictions; in effect staying one step ahead of the law.  “It’s come back to the forefront – in the news again,” observed Cayot, adding; “it’s hard to say what the exact cause of that is.”  The detectives indicated that since 2013, there have been 56 overdoses, with 30-40 percent attributed to heroin, but did not confirm that any were a result of the product “Smacked.”  Both Cayot and Lucontoni shared an informational flier from the DEA that was being used by the HPD in their attempt to educate the store owners.  Included in the flier were various street names of the product, how it is abused, what it looks like (similar to potpourri) as well as the effects of using Spice or K2.

In reiterating the department’s objective of informing and educating store owners as to the various perils of being involved with the illegal substance, Cayot addressed the moral issue.  Regarding any potential continued sale of the product by store owners, after being informed of the adverse and mind-altering affects resultant from its use, Cayot intimated that it would be unconscionable for the “seller” to continue selling the product, knowing the potentially grave ramifications to the user.

Such was not the case in nearby Pelham, where the PPD made a recent arrest of a store owner, Christopher Matte, 43, of Hudson.  Matte, the owner and employee of Ace Discount Cigarettes on Bridge Street, Pelham, was charged with two counts of felony Sale of Drugs.  These charges stem from the distribution of synthetic marijuana, also commonly known as “Spice.”

After personally searching out “Smacked” in several store locations in Hudson, this reporter was unable to procure any; with some store clerks/owners more convincing than others in their assurance that they did not carry the product.  However, at Ayotte’s Stateline Market – Smokin Joes, a convenience store located on the Hudson/Tyngsboro, Mass. state line, manager Mike Roberts was adamant regarding the sale of the product: “We’ve never carried it.  I’ve been against it from the very beginning.”  Hopefully, his feelings are shared by all retail store owners as well as other potential sellers.

And at the risk of getting too editorial on the subject, maybe the DEA should become significantly more restrictive with the ingredients for this product; expand the scope of illegal chemicals and stop leaving the door open for potential manufactures to circumvent the law by making subtle changes in formulas that allow them to continue distributing the product to prospective sellers.