St. Petersburg cracks down on fake weed with "Operation POT-pourri"

Nearly two dozen suspects arrested

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Cops crisscrossed the PSTA transfer station on Central Avenue handing out fliers today in hopes of attracting some attention.

"We're cracking down on spice," said Officer Courtney Zak as she pressed the colorful handbills into the hands of folks waiting to get on the bus. 

The officers let people know that in St. Petersburg, the production, possession, provision, use, sale, offer or distribution of Spice, K2 and the like is illegal.

Thanks to a city ordinance -- each packet carries a $500 fine.

"Each package is about $15-20," said Zak as she explained how street-level dealers maximize their profits by splitting up the packets into user-sized cigarettes.  "And then they can roll at least 30 joints from each package, and they get a dollar per joint."

Looking for potential users or sellers, police watched for telltale orange fingers in potential bus riders -- as well as the odd behaviors folks around here have come to accept.

"It smells nasty and you can tell by the way they act that they're smoking it," said frequent bus-rider Anne Lax.

Over the past 48 hours, "Operation POT-pourri" resulted in the arrests of nearly two dozen suspects who engaged in the trafficking of synthetic marijuana.  Over half of the arrests took place in Williams park.  Two busts came at businesses-- Mario's Meat Market on 5th Avenue North had it's spice shelves picked clean.  It was also fined $23,000.  The Frog Eyes Smoke Shop on Fourth Street North had its stash confiscated and received an order to pay $21,500 in penalties.

"So our task today and going on in the future is to ensure that we educate the locations, educate parents, educate our young adults on the dangers of these products," said Assistant Police Chief Luke Williams.

"I hope it cleans the streets up," said Ms. Lax

I asked the officers why it has taken St. Pete seeming so long to implement a concerted effort like this.

I was assured that the arrests, confiscations and shut downs have been on-going, but now, with the ordinance and more cops on the street, they're putting on the full-court press.

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