Officials seeing more illegal 'spice'

ALBANY -- No matter what you call it, K-2, spice or artificial marijuana -- possession can put a person in jail.

Driving a 1995 green Chevrolet Impala SS at 3:15 p.m. Feb. 1, Jasen Whitaker, 27, was pulled over for reckless driving, said Maj. Bill Berry, commander of the Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit.

According to a Dougherty County Jail spokeswoman, Whitaker was booked into jail for possession of 601.7 grams of an illegal drug known variously as K-2, or spice, on Feb. 23 in connection with the traffic stop.

"They pulled him over," Berry said, "then they noticed boxes on the back seat. He had more than a pound and a quarter of spice."

The delay between the drug's discovery and the jailing of Whitaker came because of what could be called a wrinkle in the law.

Then Gov. Sonny Perdue outlawed possession of the drug in May by signing the legislation.

However, there are no field tests for artificial marijuana as there are for the real thing, cocaine and other illegal drugs.

The suspected drug had to be sent to a Georgia Bureau of Investigation lab to be tested.

"We got the results of the tests in a couple weeks and arrested him (Whitaker)," Berry said. "Until there is a field test, we can't risk getting jammed up by arresting someone if it came back as a legal substance."

Berry said his agents are waiting for results of at least four more tests to be done on drug samples they submitted to the lab. If the drug is confirmed, they can arrest the suspects.

"This drug is a trend we have seen increasing here," Berry said. "We started getting more of it in the middle of the summer."

Because Whitaker was arrested before a federal law went into effect, he will be tried under state law, Berry said. The U.S. drug Enforcement Administration invoked an emergency authority to make most "legal high" products illegal on March 1, according to the medical website webmd.com.

"The relatively inactive herbs used in these products are spiked with potent designer drugs. They have no accepted medical use and high potential for abuse," according to webmd.com

The amount of the drug seized is the most spice the drug unit has seen in the Albany-Dougherty area, Berry said.

"The drugs here are worth $6,000 wholesale," Berry said. "It is repacked into half-gram, plastic bags and we have had undercover agents buy a half gram here in Albany for $25. Do the math and that drug could be worth $30,000."

Whitaker put up $3,220 in bail and was released from jail, the jail spokeswoman said.