NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) - Local retailers' days are numbered when it comes to selling synthetic marijuana, or spice. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced last week it was using its emergency scheduling authority to temporarily make "fake pot" illegal for at least one year.
"We're seeing an increase in hospital visits by young people," said Norfolk Resident Agent Mike Kennedy.
Kennedy said hospital visits are up tenfold. The rare move means spice will fall into the same category as marijuana for at least a year while the DEA and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services determines whether or not spice should be permanently controlled.
Inside Lazy Dayz in Newport News, employees have already collected more than 10 pages of signatures from customers wanting to keep spice legal. Though, owner Jay Sedwick is running out of days to sell one of his most popular products.
"We definitely have to get rid of our inventory. I am grateful the DEA is allowing us to do that," said Sedwick.
Substitute products are already making their way onto store shelves.
Sedwick believes bootleg spice is dangerous. He says he only buys from reputable manufacturers who list the ingredients on their packages. He also sells spice as an incense to be burned, not smoked or consumed.
"All spice is not the same," Sedwick continued.
A York County teen was recently hospitalized after smoking spice he'd bought at a gas station.
The teen who wanted to remain anonymous told WAVY.com, "Once I got to the hospital my heart rate was through the roof and so was my blood pressure."
Sedwick says he'll stop selling spice when the DEA says it's time.
He's already being contacted by manufacturers pushing chemical free spice. The latest version is a response to the DEA's latest move.
"There's a demand for it, that's not going away," said Sedwick.
"It's a constant battle and a constant issue," said Kennedy.
Once the DEA makes the move to officially outlaw spice, likely in late December, it'll be up to local law enforcement and local city attorneys to enforce the measure.
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