HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Thousands of packets of spice are off the market in Hancock County after sheriff deputies raided two tobacco stores Friday afternoon.
For one of the stores, Herbal Alternatives, this is the second time law enforcement officers have found and removed packets of spice from the shelves.
Director of Narcotics Jeremy Skinner said, "We receive complaints all the time, especially concerned mothers, about stores in Hancock County continuing to sell what we call spice. In the last several days alone, we had two juveniles overdose on spice."
Agents confiscated around 500 packets of what is labeled skyscraper at A&E Tobacco.
At Herbal Alternatives, thousands of packages with several different names were wrapped up and taken by deputies.
"Herbal Alternatives sold today to an undercover officer spice, along with a pipe to suggest human consumption. As opposed to an incense. Therefore, we executed a search warrant to seize all the property," Skinner said.
Deputies said for store owners, the potential for huge profit outweighs the risk of arrest. Signs on the door at A&E say "Cash only for Skyscrapper" and "We will only be selling Skyscraper through April 15th."
Hancock County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Don Bass said, "It seems here that they may be trying to get rid of the product because of the amount of pressure we put on them in the last couple of weeks."
Deputies are also cracking down on the manufacturers. Just last week, narcotics agents raided a house in Diamondhead. They believe the renters sold spice to local stores.
"We actually purchased a packet of spice that matches the empty packets that were found in the house in Diamondhead," Skinner said.
Hancock County drug agents do not plan to ease up on spice sellers any time soon.
Bass said, "They will stop selling it in Hancock County."
All of the spice confiscated Friday will be sent off to the crime lab to be tested for illegal substances. If they come back positive, charges will be filed.
Attorney Michael Crosby who represents Herbal Alternatives said, "Herbal Alternatives is not in the business of providing any illegal product. Instead, all products are tested by an independent laboratory to insure that all ingredients are legal."
"The idea is to provide a wide variety of products as alternatives to prescriptions and other items which have harmful side effects, including everything from natural soap to natural beauty aids. When a legitimate, duly licensed and tax paying business is raided by 20 storm troopers who temporarily close the doors and turn away customers, the impact is to cause an unfair stigma to attach to both the store and its patrons wishing to engage in lawful transactions," Crosby said.
"We have no alternative except to seek recourse and damages in court. For now, the store remains open for business. Legitimate business," Crosby said.