OLATHE, Kan. — Synthetic marijuana, or K2 as it’s often known, may be illegal but it’s still sold behind the counters at certain convenience stores in the Kansas City area.
The family of Devon Young says the 23-year-old Olathe man had no trouble buying his favorite drug before he collapsed and died on April 19 from cardiac arrest. Doctors told his family Young had the heart of an 80-year-old man because of his drug abuse.
“He was so hooked onto it it was impossible for him to turn around,” said his father, Don Young.
FOX 4 spoke to an undercover narcotics agent with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office who says he’s raided 15 to 20 convenience stores in the metro since synthetic marijuana was banned.
“These drugs have a huge profit margin and that’s what drives this industry.”
He goes to say convenience stores aren’t flaunting what they sell but often hide the one gram packets behind the counter for known customers.
“You have to know the right store. You have to know the right clerk, you have to know the right password or the flavor of the day. You have to be known by the clerk or introduced by someone known by the clerk,” said the agent.
The girlfriend of Devon Young tells FOX 4 she and her boyfriend knew exactly where to go and who to approach at certain convenience stores when they wanted to smoke packets of the drug, packaged as harmless incense.
The undercover agent with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office says drug makers keep changing the chemical compounds in their products to stay one step ahead of the law. He says some retailers think that gives them a legal loophole to keep selling the packets with a “wink-wink” label that says “Not for Human Consumption.”
Micah Riggs owned the Coffee Wonk in Midtown before closing it in February after a police raid. He says other retailers still sell the packets as incense because they’re a big money maker.
“It’s hard for any shop to just give up revenue overnight.”
Riggs suspects other shops are willing to keep quietly selling the product for the same reason he did.
“They have what they feel is adequate legal opinions which are based on scientific opinions that are very expensive to obtain but have been obtained that they feel puts them in the clear legally.”
Earlier this year, a Jackson County jury acquitted Riggs on one count of distributing and selling a controlled substance and failed to reach a verdict on the second count.
Last month, Riggs was indicted on a new criminal count related to allegedly selling synthetic marijuana. That trial is set for later this year.
In the meantime, Riggs says he’s gotten out of the business.