12 INVESTIGATES: Community protests stores selling 'spice'

Published: Sep. 10, 2012 at 8:12 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 26, 2012 at 6:11 PM EDT
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COLONIAL HEIGHTS, VA (WWBT) - "Kick spice out of the Heights!" was yelled by protestors outside a Colonial Heights Tobacco shop.

For April Shifflett, a protest was the only way to get attention. After watching her son end up in a psych ward - twice - she is going 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 Shifflett.

"I'm here to support her. As we read about [spice] online and we got together at work and we decided we'll come out and do something about this," added fellow protestor Pam Ryals.

April Shifflett says she staged the protest on the sidewalk in front of Tobacco Zone in Colonial Heights because it was one of the stores where her son bought spice.

"I hope by being out here that there are other parents in the area that will reach out and help me in this fight against this," said Shifflett.

We took a hidden camera into the store, where the clerk showed us a jar of Zombie Matter. He also went over all the products, and prices.

"These are the ones I have in stock," said the clerk.

On the day of the protest, we went back inside the store. A man who identified himself at the owner's son, declined to go on camera. But he did tell me he believes in Shifflett's right to free speech and his right to sell a product. He said it's a business decision and pointed out that there are plenty of other stores in greater Richmond selling spice.

On its web site, Zombie Matter is advertised as 100% legal, but when you read the fine print it says, "legal in most states."

"It's sold next to the pipes and next to the rolling papers. It's intended to be smoked even though it says not for human consumption," said Shifflett.

Shifflett believes the protest was also the only way she could get the attention of local police.

"The feds, they want the states and the localities to police it, and that's not what's happening. They're not policing it," said Shifflett.

The day after Shifflett protested, police were called out to the store. Someone threw a rock into her window and stole several items. Police say it was an unrelated breaking and entering.

So why aren't local police going after the stores still selling spice, even after lawmakers tried to ban it? Sources tell NBC12 it's just not cost-effective. Police have to take samples and have them tested in a lab. It's expensive and selling and buying spice is only a misdemeanor under Virginia law.

Also, the manufacturers keep changing the chemical compounds they use to make it. So, when the samples come back from the lab, they don't always match the chemicals lawmakers have listed as illegal.

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