By Sean I. Mills, Sentinel staff writer
SEIZED IN DRUG SWEEP ¿ These synthetic drugs were confiscated during two drug busts conducted by the Rome Police Friday night at the stores Exit 420 on North James Street and Country Farms on Floyd Avenue. Due to a new city ordinance, possessing and selling these synthetic drugs is illgal and carries a $500 fine and/or jail time.
Two local store-owners were charged with possessing synthetic drugs after the Rome Police conducted their first drug sweep backed by the city’s new criminal ban Friday night.
The owners of Exit 420 on North James Street and Country Farms on Floyd Avenue were ticketed, authorities said. More sweeps are expected today on local businesses.
"Our officers will be out every day, aggressively enforcing this ordinance," said Police Chief Kevin C. Beach in a release.
"We will continue to do everything in our power to get these incredibly dangerous substances off the streets of Rome."
The city ordinance making the sale and possession of synthetic drugs illegal was passed by the Common Council on Wednesday. Beach was one of the co-signers of the proposed legislation.
A statewide ban, which does not carry any criminal liability, was enacted through the state Department of Health on March 29.
These synthetic drugs, most often synthetic marijuana, consist of a planet material coated by chemicals that mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Up until the state ban and the new city ordinance, these drugs were legally sold in convenience stores and smoke shops under names like Spice, K2, Mr. Nice Guy, Galaxy Gold and more.
The Department of Health said the synthetic drugs have been linked to death, acute renal failure, increased heart rate, nausea, seizures and more.
At about 10 p.m. Friday, Rome police officers under the supervision of Lt. Dominic J. Corigliano visited three local businesses known to sell the synthetic drugs. One of the businesses was closed.
At Exit 420 at 401 N. James St., police said owner Muhammad Ali, 22, of Utica, still had several brands of synthetic drugs on display for sale.
"Police discovered a large amount of synthetic drugs that were being offered for sale to the public," said Detective Commander Timothy J. Bates.
The officers seized the drugs and Ali was ticketed for one count each of sale and possession of synthetic drugs, a violation.
Then at Country Farms at 916 Floyd Ave., police said owner Vipul Patel, 39, of Lori Lane, Rome, had one box of "Pump It Powder" brand synthetic cocaine. The box was not on the shelf nor was it on display.
Patel "advised that he had taken the synthetic drugs off the shelves, however he had a box," Bates explained.
The box was seized, and police said Patel was ticketed for possession of a synthetic drug.
Both Ali and Patel were released on appearance tickets to City Court on May 1. The ordinance violation carries a sentence of 15 days in jail and/or a $500 fine.
Bates said more stores will be targeted as Rome Police continue to enforce the new city ordinance.
"They’ll be out again today checking other locations," Bates stated.