Synthetic marijuana arrests on the upswing in Jewett City

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Griswold - posted Tue., Mar. 26, 2013
This is a portion of the synthetic marijuana state police seized March 2 from Vipin Patel of Jewett City. The total seizure was worth $16,000. Contributed photo. - Contributed Photo

A recent upswing in arrests for possession and intended sale of synthetic marijuana in Griswold and Jewett City has been keeping state police busy and should serve as a heads-up to parents, said Griswold Resident State Trooper Adam Chittick. In the past two months, police have confiscated a fair amount of the substance, also referred to as K-2, and made several arrests for possession.

Among those arrested was Vipin Patel of 112 Brown Ave., Jewett City. Patel was pulled over by state troopers and gave the officers permission to search his vehicle. They found 21 pounds of synthetic marijuana, packaged in more than 1,000 individual packets and bagged for bulk sale. The estimated street value of the haul was $16,000.

In February, the owners of the Bestway Convenience Store on Main Street were arrested and charged with illegal possession of narcotics and tampering with evidence. Just a few days earlier, the Abbey Road smoke shop in Norwich and its Jewett City counterpart, Abbey Road II, were raided by state police and Norwich city police, and two men arrested for possession of synthetic marijuana.

Chittick said that a few ounces of K-2 typically costs the dealer a few dollars per package, but sells for $15 to $25 retail. The granular substance is often called something else during the sale: one convenience store, he said, referred to it as “shoe polish.” “They try to make it different names so other customers aren’t alerted to it,” he said. Fun nicknames, like “Scooby Snacks” or “Star Wars,” a fruity fragrance and bright packaging makes the substance appealing to youngsters, he said.

The high mark-up makes synthetic marijuana a tempting product for convenience store owners, Chittick said. “It’s inexpensive and easy to get,” he said. In the Bestway arrest, police seized $40,000 worth of the substance, “literally two trash bags full of packages.”

While possession and sale of natural marijuana is considered a criminal infraction, depending on the amount, possession or sale of synthetic marijuana is an arrestable offense, he said. Unlike regular marijuana, the synthetic is frequently laced with unknown chemicals to “improve” its effect. “It’s the chemicals in there that do more damage,” said Chittick.

Chittick said that heroin use has become an even more serious problem in the region, and that methamphetamine use is on the rise as well. He said that the region’s location along the main route between Boston and New York makes it vulnerable to drug dealers.

Youth center director Ryan Aubin said that he was aware of K-2’s existence in the area but has not heard much about it from the center’s young people. “The whole idea of this place is we’re trying to get [kids] away from the streets,” he said. “We have very proactive troopers and they’re working with everybody. That’s where the leads are coming from.”

Anyone with information regarding the illegal sale of narcotics or synthetic marijuana is encouraged to call the Troop D Anonymous Tips Hotline at 860-779-4950.

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