Colorado AG sues Denver store over alleged synthetic drug sales

By Kyla Asbury | May 8, 2014

DENVER (Legal Newsline) - Colorado Attorney General John Suthers announced a civil lawsuit on Wednesday against a Denver store and its owner for allegedly selling synthetic drug products that contributed to an illness outbreak.

Orlando Martinez and his store, O's Pipes & Tobacco, allegedly engaged in the illegal sales of "spice" products, which contain illegal synthetic cannabinoids. Martinez allegedly sold the products with deceptive labeling, in violation of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act.

"Investigators from the Colorado attorney general's office and Colorado Department of Revenue conducted an undercover purchase at O's Pipes & Tobacco and removed 1,319 spice packages with an estimated street value of more than $21,000," Suthers said. "We can now connect the fact that last fall, 221 people were put in the emergency room after using these or similar spice products."

Spice products are often rebranded and repackaged as incense, potpourri or novelty products. The synthetic cannabinoids in spice products can cause vomiting, paranoia, agitation, elevated blood pressure, hallucinations, seizures and non-responsiveness.

"The public needs to presume that all spice products are both harmful and illegal," Suthers said. "I thank our Colorado legislators for passing House Bill 14-1037 which addresses enforcement of laws against designer drugs and will make it easier for us to prosecute those who manufacture and sell these products."

Suthers' office is seeking up to $2,000 per violation and disgorgement of profits from spice sales. Suthers alleged that offering for sale each of the 1,319 spice packages counts as a separate violation.

Lawsuits against two other retailers, the Aurora-based Paymon's Market Inc. and the Longmont-based Tobacco King, remain pending.

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