BRADENTON, Fla. - There were drawers full of synthetic marijuana behind the counter at the Shell gas station and food mart on 14th Street S. in Bradenton. Thursday afternoon, 2 Shell stations about a mile apart were raided by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.
"Seized just a ton of stuff out of both of these stores," said Sheriff Brad Steube.
The amount of synthetic marijuana taken from the two locations is staggering. More than 5,500 packages weighing nearly 180 pounds with an approximate retail value of more than $65,000.
"These stores know what these substances are doing to our kids and adults are smoking this stuff; and to me it's unethical," said Steube.
The Sheriff says that both Shell stations are owned by the same person; and that a letter was sent on three separate occasions warning the stores to not sell the products. After undercover deputies made a recent purchase and the product tested positive for the banned chemicals, the stores were raided.
Dean Martinelli was pumping gas at the Shell when he heard of the raid and the amount of synthetic marijuana seized.
"It's a shock. I never suspected anything like that," said Martinelli.
Customers of both stores and those in the community say it's good that the authorities are keeping the pressure on businesses that sell synthetic marijuana.
"It's harmful to the children and the people that are smoking that stuff. They just change the chemicals and try to make it legal. It all should be illegal," said Bradenton resident Sam Armann as he stood near the Shell station.
"That's why we're reaching out to the business owners and asking them don't sell it. Don't sell it in our community, go somewhere else if you think you need to sell this. And what is it all about? It's about money. It's about the almighty dollar," Steube explained.
Although no arrests have been made, The Sheriff's Office is forwarding the case to the State Attorney's office.