Washington County makes massive ‘spice’ bust
Drugs • Raids also yield 56 pounds of bath salts containing an amphetamine.
Published: April 19, 2012 04:16PM
Updated: April 21, 2012 11:59PM

More than 200 pounds of spice — a synthetic form of marijuana — with an estimated street value of over $1.5 million were seized Wednesday by the Washington County Area Drug and Gang Task Force.

Police also seized 56 pounds of bath salt powder — which contained amphetamine-like chemicals — with an estimated street value of over $600,000, police reported Thursday.

Four people — including a married couple who own a smoke shop — were arrested and charged with alleged drug distribution.

The raids on area smoke shops, a residence and a warehouse were the culmination of an eight-month investigation into the illegal manufacturing, distribution and possession of spice and bath salts, according to St. George Police Capt. James Van Fleet.

Van Fleet said in a news release that Washington County has seen a drastic increase in the number of individuals purchasing and using spice and bath salts in the past year.

He said the substances, which are being marketed at local smoke shops as “incense,” have “very dangerous and potentially life threatening consequences.”

They are typically packaged in a small pouch or small clear container, Van Fleet said, and the ingredients listed on the packaging do not always reflect what’s actually in the product.

“Bath salts are synthetic, stimulant powders that contain amphetamine-like chemicals, including mephedrone,” he said. “The chemicals in both the spice and bath salts ... are illegal.”

The four people arrested in conjunction with the raid were booked into the Washington County jail.

All four were charged Thursday in 5th District Court with felony counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, according to court records.

Two of the defendants — a husband and wife who own a smoke shop — also were charged with third-degree felony counts of child endangerment. Police who went to their home found spice and spice paraphernalia in a small freezer in the garage that was “easily accessible” to the couple’s children, ages 5 and 11, according to court documents.

At the smoke shop owned by the couple, an undercover officer bought spice products labeled as “XXX” and “Godsmack,” as well as a bath salt product called “Sparkling Devil,” according to court documents. The items allegedly were identified as illegal during testing at the Utah State Crime Lab.

Of the other two people charged, one was working at the smoke shop when an undercover buy was made, according to court documents. The other person told police he had been making calls to spice shops throughout Utah and the United States, “setting up sales to shops and shipping out” bath salts an spice, according to court documents.

As the investigation continues more arrests may be made, Van Fleet said.

shunt@sltrib.com