Crime

Spice: Tobacco King Sang Leaming's $100,000 Fine Largest for Store Selling "Synthetic Pot"

We've been reporting about local law enforcement agencies' war on spice, a product popularly known as synthetic pot even though it has little in common with actual cannabis. Now, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers -- the newly minted Colorado Springs mayoral candidate featured earlier today in an interview with Kyle Harris -- has brought the hammer down on one convicted spice purveyor: Sang Leaming, who owned the Longmont shop Tobacco King. A consent judgement on view below calls on Leaming to pay a $100,000 fine -- the largest ever for a single store selling spice, the AG's office maintains. Photos, details and the document below.

See also: Spice Raids Address Health Crisis Caused by "Synthetic Marijuana," Spokesman Says

The case against Leaming has been a long time coming. According to a October 2013 Fox31 report, the Tobacco King was originally raided in July 2012, with agents from the Department of Revenue collecting more than 1,000 packages of spice.

The Boulder Daily Camera adds that the action was prompted by Carey Ferguson, a mom in Loveland who discovered that her son had purchased spice in the store, then bought some herself and took it to local cops.

The Camera points out that Leaming was acquitted of two felonies in regard to the Ferguson sale -- but he also wound up facing charges in regard to the raid. He was finally arrested in September 2013 -- a delay Fox31 chalks up to the time it took to test the seized substances and determine what was actually in them. And this past June, the Camera reports, he was convicted of possession with intent to distribute and distribution of synthetic cannabinoids. His sentence, imposed last month: four years on probation and one year of work release.

That left the lawsuit -- the first of four the AG's office has filed against businesses accused of peddling spice. And in the aforementioned decree, Leaming was ordered to pay $100,000 in civil penalties -- $5,000 by September 1, followed by monthly payments of $2,000 starting October 1 and continuing until the amount is paid in full.

The judgement is "the nation's largest-ever civil fine for selling spice products against a single store," the AG's office maintains in a release that contains the following Suthers quote: "Spice is a dangerous, volatile drug that is illegal despite the claims of many store owners that it is not. My office will continue working with our law enforcement partners and the retail industry to remove spice from store shelves and prosecute peddlers of these products."

That's not good news for the targets of those other spice lawsuits. Here's a look at Leaming's 2012 booking photo, followed by the aforementioned document.

Tobacco King Order

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts