Convenience store owner, employees arrested in connection with synthetic marijuana

Charges are pending against the owner of Pumpkin Center Store after authorities found what they believe to be synthetic marijuana at the business and at her home.

About 10 p.m. Thursday, Colum­bia County Sheriff’s Office narcotics investigators searched the Harlem-area store at 1313 Appling-Harlem Highway, according to sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris. The owner and two employees were detained inside.

Investigators found 292 packets of what they believe is synthetic marijuana behind the front counter and in the back office, Morris said. The packets will be sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab in Atlanta for analysis and confirmation.

Synthetic marijuana, also known as K2 or Spice, is a psychoactive designer drug derived of natural herbs sprayed with synthetic chemicals that, when consumed, allegedly mimic the effects of cannabis.

The owner told investigators she had more synthetic marijuana at her Evans home, where they found an additional 853 packets.

Authorities seized all the material believed to be synthetic marijuana, which had a street value of $21,050, according to Morris.

Charges are pending against the owner.

The search and seizure are the second in two weeks at a convenience store. On June 21, Atul Patel, 49, the owner of Lewiston Express at 107 Lewiston Road, and his son Kinjalkumar Patel, 26, were charged with possession of a Schedule I drug with intent to distribute. At least 30 of the more than 400 packages seized from that store were confirmed to be synthetic marijuana. The rest was sent to the GBI Crime Lab for analysis.

The searches, Morris said, resulted from investigating complaints.

“(It is) one part of our drug enforcement efforts,” Morris said. “But synthetic marijuana is a growing problem.”

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