D.C. and other jurisdictions have cracked down on the sale of products like Scooby Snax, a synthetic drug marketed as a household product.
Feb 13, 2015
WAMU - The D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs announced today that it had revoked the business license of a convenience store in Northeast D.C. found to have been selling synthetic marijuana, the first such closure since the city adopted rules last year allowing it to crack down on businesses selling the drugs.
According to DCRA, the convenience store located at a Mobil gas station at 814 Bladensburg Road NE will be forced to close tomorrow after its owner was found to have been selling Scooby Snax, a prohibited form of synthetic marijuana
marketed as potpourri.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines synthetic marijuana — also known as "spice — as a "wide variety of herbal mixtures that produce experiences similar to marijuana (cannabis) and that are marketed as 'safe,' legal alternatives to that drug." The psychoactive effects are caused by chemical additives.
In June 2013, Semhar Gebrekidan, the store's owner, sold a package of Scooby Snax to an undercover police officer. Gebrekidan, an immigrant from Eritrea, was warned that synthetic marijuana was illegal, but a year later a clerk at the store was caught selling the same product to a police officer. According to police, the store had 77 packages of Scooby Snax — worth $1,155 — on hand.
Four months later, DCRA notified Gebrekidan that her business license was being revoked under new rules adopted in April allowing the agency to shut down any business found to be selling synthetic drugs. She appealed, saying she did not know selling Scooby Snax was illegal and that she did not understand the officers who warned her. The appeal was rejected earlier this month.
Gebrekidan did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Since 2012, D.C. has strengthened its laws against synthetic drugs
and taken public steps to scare both residents and businesses away from it. In December of that year, D.C. Eleanor Holmes Norton directly confronted a store owner on Benning Road NE who was selling Scooby Snax, and in 2013 the D.C. Department of Health started an advertising campaign warning residents that using synthetic drugs could turn them into zombies.
This week, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine joined his counterparts from 41 states and territories in signing a letter to nine oil companies asking them to prohibit the sale of synthetic drugs at their franchises across the country.
Synthetic marijuana has also been banned in Virginia and Maryland, and various of the chemical components of synthetic drugs have been classified under Schedule I of the federal Controlled Substances Act.
In a statement, Melinda Bolling, DCRA's interim director, said that the closure would serve as an example to other businesses selling synthetic drugs.
"Synthetic drugs have been linked to severe adverse health effects and, with names like Scooby Snax, appear to be marketed to children,” she said. “This action sends a powerful message: if you sell synthetic drugs in the District of Columbia, you will lose your business license."
Gebrekidan's business license revocation is effective as of tomorrow. It will be revoked for two years.