Saturday, December 16, 2017
Public safety

Convenience store owner accused of selling synthetic marijuana

ST. PETERSBURG — Police arrested a convenience store owner they said has been selling synthetic marijuana, using a recent state order banning the possession of many chemicals found in the products commonly known as "Spice" and "K-2."

Meherun Nessa, 54, of Clearwater, was booked into the Pinellas County Jail on Wednesday. Police said Nessa sold two packages — about 4 grams — of synthetic marijuana to an undercover detective Feb. 4 at her store, Nessa's Drive Thru, at 5820 Ninth Ave. N.

Police sent the packages, which featured a yellow smiley face and the label "Mr. Happy Potpourri," to a laboratory for testing. Officials there confirmed the product contained a chemical called XRL-11, which shows up on a list of narcotics Attorney General Pam Bondi banned in an emergency order late last year.

The Police Department recently sent letters to store owners across the city to let them know about the new rule. It hasn't provided much relief, law enforcement officials say, because manufacturers often change formulas. And, it takes weeks for labs to confirm the presence of the banned chemicals.

Nessa's arrest is the first the city has made under the new order.

It likely won't be the last, if city leaders get their way.

Officials, fueled by pleas from law enforcement and the visible effects of Spice in places like Williams Park downtown, have moved to enact a ban on synthetic marijuana, regardless if it contains the specified chemicals on the state list.

City Council members will discuss a proposed ordinance next Thursday.

Police said Nessa told them she only sold Spice to people she knew, and that she stopped after getting the letter from police.

When officers arrested her on Wednesday, they did not find any on the shelves, police said.

Records show Nessa was released on bail Wednesday night. She could not immediately be reached for comment.

Police said they have sent undercover officers to other stores in the city and expect more arrests.

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