MPD says it warned gas station owner about selling synthetic pot
Dane County drug task force search warrants show nearly 38.5 pounds, or 18,000 grams, of synthetic marijuana were seized from two East Washington Avenue gas stations.
In total, MPD said during a Tuesday news conference the 3,000 packets of dozens of types of synthetic pot were seized from Farooq Shahzad’s Capitol Petro and CP Mart Mobil gas stations last week.
“We attempted to purchase six of his products at the north and east side and were successful at these two,” Madison Police Officer Dave Dexheimer said. “That said, however, at four other locations the clerk always said go to these two stores.”
Shahzad owns 13 Madison area stores.
Leading up to the drug bust, the documents say gas station clerks sold Madison police informants $25 hits of synthetic marijuana brands called “Scooby Snax” and “Angry Birds.” The documents said clerks handed the informants their purchases in black packages from under the counter, then the clerks wrote something on a notebook.
Shahzad said Monday he did not realize he was selling synthetic marijuana.
“No one told me it was illegal to sell,” Shahzad said. “It seemed like that was hemp.”
Shahzad said he did not know because the product came from a Chicago vendor he also purchased other products from, and he wished police had informed him sooner.
However, during Tuesday’s news conference, police said back in 2013 when they found synthetic marijuana being sold at his Verona Road location an officer warned Shahzad.
“The product that he was selling was shown to contain illegal substances. And told him you should not sell this anymore,” Dexheimer said. “He’s not stopped selling it. And now we’ve come to the point where we’re issuing citations in the amount of $12,000.”
This is the first case in Madison history where police have fined someone for violating the city’s new law declaring synthetic marijuana illegal, authorities said.
Neighbors living near Capitol Petro, in the Schenk neighborhood, said the bust does not surprise them because drug deal rumors have become more constant over the last year and a half.
“It’s nothing you like to hear in your neighborhood. There’s bad things happening. And so you want it to get cleaned up. And I know other neighbors have been involved. So you try to make sure it has been cleaned up,” said Ruth, who lives in the neighborhood.
While Dexheimer said there had been numerous complaints through the years, it was not until they had the power of the new law they could actually enforce Shahzad’s promise to clean up his act.
“There’s no reason this man can’t conduct legitimate business in the city of Madison. Like I said, we just want him to be a good corporate citizen and show some responsibility to the area which he operates. I think stopping the sale of this will go a long way in achieving that goal,” Dexheimer said.
The Dane County gangs and narcotics task force commander and Madison police Lt. Jason Freedman said he is concerned about synthetic marijuana’s growing trend in Madison.
“Widespread availability and knowledge of where these can be purchased, at least at these particular locations, have been magnets,” Freedman said.
The Food and Drug Administration says synthetic marijuana is so dangerous because high amounts of unknown chemical levels, which mimic the THC effect of marijuana, can lead to muscle twitching, seizures, psychotic episodes, heart attacks, strokes and even death.
“It can be fairly dangerous stuff because people don’t know what they’re taking,” Tellurian Medical Director Dr. Brian Lochen said. “It’s not really synthetic THC, but they act on the same receptors that THC does.”
Shahzad did not return a call for comment Tuesday.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified synthetic marijuana as containing THC.