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‘Spice’ Leads To Charges

SANTA FE, N.M. — Perhaps this qualifies as someone running a “joint” operation.

A man who works as a gas station clerk was arrested Thursday for also allegedly running a side business of selling synthetic marijuana from behind the store counter.

Awawda M. Salah, 31, of Albuquerque, was taken into custody after Santa Fe police found between 150 and 200 packages of synthetic cannabis – a psychoactive drug that produces effects similar to marijuana and is sometimes referred to as the brand name Spice – in his possession, according to Santa Fe police Lt. Louis Carlos.

Police were led to Salah, who works at the Fill Up station, 2631 Cerrillos Road, by a man they had confronted in an unrelated automobile burglary case. The man – who turned out to have nothing to do with the motor vehicle break-in, which occurred near the gas station earlier that day – was at a bus stop with two other men when police came over and talked to him.


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“They asked him if he had anything in his pockets,” Carlos said. “He just offered that he had Spice in his pocket.”

The man then admitted to police that he had bought Spice from Salah at the Fill Up.

Police then went to the gas station and talked to Salah. At first, Salah denied making the sale. But then he stated that he had “herbal essence” in his possession. Salah then took out a large tray from under the counter and showed the officer a “box full of Spice.”

Carlos said that Salah had different blends of Spice “categorized in small bins” in the tray, which he hid in the area where lottery tickets are kept.

“He had a cardboard sign over the bin that said, ‘Sorry, no lotto,’ ” Carlos said. Carlos assumed that when Spice customers would come in, he would take the sign off and make a sale. Carlos has no information as to how long Salah has been selling the drug at the gas station.

Synthetic cannabis has been illegal in New Mexico since last year. There have been reports of some “smoke shops” redesigning the chemical ingredients of the drug in an effort to sidestep the ban. However, the bill that was passed last year bans “any material, compound, mixture or preparation that contains any quantity” of hallucinogens.

Salah was booked into the Santa Fe County jail on a felony charge of distributing a controlled substance and two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia. Police say he received that charge because he was selling pipes to go along with the drug.

The jail’s website has Salah as the man’s first name, with Awawda as his last name. Santa Fe police provided the name in reverse of the jail’s record.

Carlos did not have information as to whether the man who directed police to Salah was charged with drug possession.