BELEN — Belen police executed a search warrant and seized dozens of containers Monday of what they believe is synthetic marijuana from a local smoke shop on South Main Street.
Detective Sgt. Joe Portio said police seized nearly 460 containers from the Belen Smoke Shop of what they say is spice, a substance of herbal mixtures that is similar to marijuana.
The substance in the containers still need to be tested at the state crime laboratory to determine if they are illegal.
Portio said the owner of the property faces charges of intent to distribute if those tests come back positive. No arrests have been made.
“The city of Belen and police take the selling of spice very seriously because of the harm it does to consumers,” Portio said.
Police said the shop, located on the 900 block of South Main Street, has only been opened for a short time.
Portio said the containers were hidden in a storage area behind a large blanket hanging inside the store. He said some of the substances that were seized could be legal. He estimated the substances to be worth $11,000.
He said police used a confidential informant to make buys from the store. The detective said the store is frequented by children that range from ages 14 to 16 years old.
“If it was legit, why wouldn’t you have it out?” Portio said.
In 2011, the New Mexico Legislature passed Senate Bill 134 that deemed the material that contains synthetic cannabinoids illegal.
Portio said there were “numerous” visits by minors during a period where police conducted surveillance at the business. The smoke shop sells various pipes, but the containers were not out in plain sight.
“It’s disturbing to see young people in and out of the shop,” said Portio.
He said police are not targeting smoke shops and that officials simply want local business owners to follow the law.
“That’s all we are asking for is for them to be compliant,” he said.