12 INVESTIGATES: Civic group holds forum to remove spice from stores

COLONIAL HEIGHTS, VA (WWBT) - A civic group in Colonial Heights is tackling spice Thursday, holding what it hopes is the first of many meetings to get the dangerous product off the streets.

Stores across Richmond are using a loophole in Virginia's law to continue selling the man-made pot - despite lawmaker's attempt to ban it.

A volunteer group dedicated to preventing substance abuse in kids and teens is hosting a community forum Thursday to not only raise awareness about fake pot, but to search for ways to stop it from being sold locally.

This all came about after NBC12 aired several stories on the struggles of a Colonial Heights mother who's son was fighting a spice addiction.

After watching her son, end up in a psych ward - twice - she went after the stores still selling spice.

"I know I'm not alone in this fight against this poison that's being sold to our kids right here in our community," said April Shifflett.

"I'm here to support her," said Pam Ryals. "As we read about it online and we got together at work, we decided we'll come out and do something about this."

Virginia lawmakers banned the product, but the manufacturers of spice keep manipulating the chemicals used to make it - finding ways around Virginia's law.

In recent months, NBC12 uncovered several stores still selling the substance. It's often marketed as potpourri - but teens, adults, even military personnel are smoking it.

Fort Lee is tackling the problem - sending letters to several stores urging them to stop selling the product or be placed off limits to Fort Lee soldiers.

Their voices and protests have now been heard by the Colonial Heights cadre group.

"Word on the street is that it's being sold at several stores in Colonial Heights and that youth, young adults are lining up when deliveries are made," said Betsy Johnson.

The group is hosting its first ever community meeting on spice Thursday.

"It's sort of a call for action. What do we as a community want to do? How do we want to respond? How can we respond?" said Eileen Brown.

Possibly even reaching people before they start smoking spice.

"The concern is that kids really don't understand the damage that it can cause to them. I mean, it has caused many deaths across the country and psychosis and all sorts of lingering illnesses. It's something to take seriously," said Johnson.

The meeting will include a substance abuse specialist, and representatives from the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office and the Colonial Heights Police Department.

The spice community forum is November 29 at 7:00 p.m. It will be held at the Colonial Heights Public Library on Yacht Basin Drive.