BARSTOW• "Twisted Dreams" and "Krazy Jack" are ostensibly two brands of herbal potpourri. Barstow police detectives collected samples of each from a local smoke shop Wednesday to test them for chemicals found in synthetic marijuana.
It was during their second round of compliance checks this year when detectives stopped at Sam's Smoke Shop on West Main Street. In a back room, stored in three large ziploc bags, they found a large quantity of five and three-gram containers of the two brands in a cardboard box — running $20 to $30 a pop.
Sam Hanhan, who said he was the brother of the smoke shop's owner, claimed he was in the process of shipping it all back to whomever he bought it from — deciding not to sell them after detectives visited him earlier in the year, but found nothing.
"They told me not to sell anything like that," he said.
He also presented detectives with an independent analysis from a laboratory in North Carolina called Triad Forensics. It indicated both brands were absent of the five chemicals which would make them illegal under section 11357.5 of the state Health and Safety Code.
"I wasn't going to carry it, unless I had some proof (it was legal)," Hanhan said.
Detectives gathered a few samples as evidence to send to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department for their own testing.
"We're in limbo until we get test results back," Detective Dante Caliboso said, which could take anywhere from four to six weeks.
If results return positive for one or more of the five banned chemicals, police will issue a citation to the smoke shop and file a report to the District Attorney's office, Caliboso said.
Hanhan purchased the potpourri "in good faith," he said, unsure if the packaging or names like "KUSH 25X" on round, white stickers on top of the containers grew his suspicions.
"What they do with it, that's (the customer's) business," he said.
He also noted he requested the analysis to prove the product was legal to sell.
Opponents of current legislation on bath salts and synthetic marijuana, also known as "Spice" or "K2," have argued banning only chemical structures simply motivates manufacturers to create new compounds that are unaccounted for.
This lack of deterrence was evident at the Smoke House and More near Foster's Freeze on West Main Street. Below an empty glass encasement, an advertisement for the potpourri "Diablo," which was sold out, not only included a "not for human consumption" label, but also that the potpourri did not contain any of the listed banned chemicals.
Last month at a synthetic drug community forum, it was announced that a city ordinance to ban the sale and possession of all considered-to-be synthetic drugs was in the works.
Until then, police detectives will have to continue to scour smoke shops and liquor stores for traces of the cheap but highly volatile drugs, constantly playing catch-up alongside current legislation.
Shea Johnson may be reached at (760) 256-4126 or at SJohnson@DesertDispatch.com.