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Texas jury acquits shop owners of drug trafficking over 'spice'

Did the owners of a chain of stores in Texas intentionally research the ever-evolving list of synthetic drugs that were illegal under federal law in order to avoid prosecution? Or, were they desperately trying to avoid breaking the law?

The jury, at least, seems to believe that the owners -- a 72-year-old entrepreneur who opened his first shop back in the 1970s and his 43-year-old daughter -- weren't intentionally trying to avoid drug trafficking laws. They were each convicted of only one charge: conspiracy to defraud the government in relation to how the products were labeled.

That's a felony offense, for which they each could receive a five-year sentence, but that's still a much better result than they might have expected. Prosecutors had sought to convict them on a number of other offenses, ranging from drug trafficking and money laundering to mail fraud. Had they been found guilty, they would have likely been sentenced to life in prison.

The products they sold were labeled variously as spices, bath salts, potpourri and incense -- and each carried the statement, "Not for human consumption." However, it was widely understood that customers intended to smoke the products -- all of which had been sprayed with synthetic drugs.

This case is considered the largest-ever prosecution over synthetic marijuana products to date. However, federal investigators have vowed to continue to hunt down others who are still selling these products and prosecute them.

It's important to understand that synthetic cannabis products are no longer legal to buy or sell. Until 2012, many were sold in convenience stores and gas stations all over the nation. Foreign manufacturers took advantage of a loophole in the nation's drug laws to keep them on the market. As soon as a synthetic drug's chemical signature was added to the federal list of illegal drugs, manufacturers would alter the composition slightly and remarket it.

Now, all drugs that are substantially the same as illegal drugs are banned -- regardless of their specific chemical signature. Selling them can quickly land you in serious trouble for drug trafficking -- so steer clear.

If you do make a mistake, make sure that you immediately contact a defense attorney with experience in drug trafficking cases.

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