Giovani Cepero and Bilal Ismail both work at the Alibaba Tobacco Shop. Cepero works behind the counter, and Ismail is the owner.
On Wednesday, they both were arrested by the Hialeah Police Department for the sale of synthetic marijuana.
The arrests are part of a crackdown on synthetic drugs by the local police department that caught five men in total. The other men were Raul Acosta, 30; Younus Farhatullah, 38; and Eugenio Hernandez, 47.
According to reporting by El Nuevo Herald, the police investigated a total of 30 business where they suspected the drug was sold.
“This illegal drug is sold under a false label of ‘natural incense’ and you get a warning that it’s ‘not for human consumption.’ But all that is a lie to deceive the authorities,” Carl Zogby, spokesman Hialeah police, told El Nuevo Herald.
The drug, also called “K2” or “fake weed” is not actually made from marijuana. The drug is made of dried leaves sprayed with chemicals — which could range from everything from pesticides to rat poisons. When smoked, it produces an effect in the same area of the brain as cannabis does.
According to the federal government, these drugs are often advertised as legal alternatives to marijuana. But, they actually cause extreme anxiety, violent behavior, hallucinations, and could even be fatal. They have become pervasive in the Florida prison system.
“The use of synthetic marijuana is growing into a national epidemic that sends thousands of people to the hospital each year, and whose long-term effects are still unknown,” Zogby told El Nuevo Herald.
The drugs the narcotics team uncovered were sold in colorful foil packages under names like “Cloud Nine,” “Fruit Punch,” and “Joker.”
Farhatullah was caught selling at his Citgo gas station on 395 19th St., police said. He handed over 100 bags of synthetic marijuana to police and explained that he uses the proceeds to pay his rent. Acosta was also caught selling the drug there, police added.
Eugenio Hernandez, 47, was arrested at the Sinbad Tobacco shop off of West 43rd Place.
The men were charged with misdemeanors for violating a county ordinance against the sale of drug paraphernalia. Bilal was charged with one felony count of selling the synthetic drug.
Bonds were set at $500 for all five men.