News 12 at 6 o'clock / Friday, Dec. 7, 2012
HARLEM, Ga. -- We're learning more about what Columbia County investigators are calling the biggest spice bust they've ever seen.
Earlier this week, the two owners of the Pumpkin Center convenience store -- where the bust was made -- were arrested. Investigators say ever since that big summertime operation, they've seen less of the dangerous synthetic drug on their streets.
Only News 12 was there as narcotic investigators raided a Harlem convenience store back in July for the popular drug spice.
"I think since then word has gotten out, the businesses have become more educated as to what spice is and it is in fact illegal. So we're not seeing as much of it as we initially did," explained Columbia County Sheriff's Cpt. Sharif Chochol.
After a tip, undercover investigators went in, bought pre-packaged product, tested it and then moved in.
"As we were hearing more about it, then we went in there and started trying to purchase it in undercover operation," Chochol said.
Just this week, after months of testing at the GBI crime lab, the owners of the store, Young Kim and Hyun Kim, were arrested.
"This is a commercially sold product, so where we're seeing it now is the businesses, convenience stores," Chochol said.
And they found a lot of it. More than 800 grams inside the store and another nearly 3,000 grams inside the couple's home.
"There was a large quantity at the businesses; it was there for sale, so there was plenty available," Chochol said.
They may be packaged up to look innocent enough, but investigators say they're nothing to mess with.
"Spice is a form of potpourri, that's where it originated, but now it's turned into a synthetic marijuana that people are using and abusing. It's not made for human consumption," he said.
The problem with spice is how easy it is for drug dealers to change the ingredients to get around the law.
"The users found out about it before the law did, so the law's catching up to it," Chochol said. "Components are being changed so then they make it into a drug that it is not illegal."
But businesses seem to have gotten the message that the Sheriff's Office is getting tough on spice.
"It has dropped down since the arrests in this case," Chochol said.
The average street value of the spice they found at the store was more than $20,000. Narcotics say they have some active investigations right now and will continue to crack down on the drug.