Police in Dalton, Ga., partnered with other regional and state authorities on a major synthetic marijuana bust this week at a local convenience store.
Authorities on Tuesday arrested Dhansukh Bhika, 62, of Cartersville, Ga., on nine counts of selling synthetic marijuana out of the Discount Tobacco Food Mart at 516 M.L. King Jr. Blvd.
The contraband obtained was separated into 1,320 packages and weighed 14,790 grams. Investigators also seized $84,993 in cash.
"This is certainly the biggest synthetic marijuana bust we've been involved in," said Bruce Frazier, public relations specialist for the Dalton Police Department. "We've not had many of them."
Frazier said agents began buying the substance from the store in October and had it tested. Synthetic marijuana has been illegal in Georgia for nearly two years.
Packages often appear to be a legitimate retail product.
"It's labeled as incense and it says 'not for human consumption,'" Frazier said. "But it's one of those things where I think everyone knows what people are using it for. I guess the packages try to make it look as attractive as possible."
Georgia outlawed the substance in a bill called "Chase's Law" in memory of Chase Burnett, a 16-year old Fayette County, Ga., honor student found dead in a hot tub after smoking the substance.
A similar ban passed in Tennessee about the same time.
Dalton police made a point of alerting businesses that sold the substance when it became illegal. Since then, they've been on the lookout for it.
Frazier said that many of the confiscated packages could have sold for $20 apiece.
"When you're talking about more than a thousand packages of the stuff, that's a significant amount of material and money in terms of dollar value," he said.
With Bhika in custody, the store is shut down, and with its most viable source of income gone, Frazier said he doubts it will reopen.
The case is not closed and more charges are possible against Bhika.
"I think the message is, if you're in this business, you should know that it's something that law enforcement agencies across the state are taking seriously," Frazier said. "It would be a good business to get out of."
Contact staff writer David Cobb at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6731.
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