Thursday, July 16, 2015 | 2 a.m.
By the time Metro Police visited Thamer Jarjees's 702 Mart on East Charleston Boulevard in early February, Las Vegas business licensing officers had already twice warned the convenience store owner that it was illegal to be selling the dangerous synthetic drug known as spice that Jarjees kept in a drawer behind the counter.
During a search of the building on Feb. 5, police found 24 pounds of spice packaged in plastic containers with colorful labels behind the front counter and in a back office. Although Jarjees was arrested later that month on drug trafficking charges, he's been able to keep selling beer, tobacco and food at 702 Mart and two other stores he owns in Las Vegas.
That will change by August, following a decision Wednesday by the Las Vegas City Council declaring Jarjees unsuitable to hold a privileged liquor license, preventing Jarjees from selling beer, wine or liquor at any of the three stores he owns.
As part of an agreement with the city, Jarjees did not contest the council's decision and agreed to surrender his licenses. In exchange, he will be allowed to continue operating the stores for several more weeks, allowing him time to find a buyer for the businesses.
In addition to 702 Mart, located at 1468 E. Charleston Blvd., near Maryland Parkway, Jarjees has full ownership of Super Liquor Mid Strip on Las Vegas Boulevard near Sahara Avenue and a 50 percent stake in Family Food II, 1602 H Street.
Jarjees' attorney Jay Brown said the co-owner of the Family Food II plans to buy out Jarjees' stake, but no owners have been lined up for the other two businesses yet. If no sale is made, the stores will shut down.
Councilman Bob Coffin said giving Jarjees time to sell the businesses will allow for an orderly transition with minimal impacts to landlords and the customers who shop at the stores.
"There is no question that there's something wrong about selling spice," Coffin said. "It's highly unlikely that this person is going to qualify for another license with this kind of record."
Spice is one name for a synthetic cannabinoid designed to mirror the effects of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. The drug, also known as K2 and sold under brand names like Diablo, Scarface, Godfather and Mary Jane, is part of larger category of synthetic drugs that includes bath salts and other chemicals marketed as "legal highs" that have grown significantly in popularity in recent years.
Although spice is listed as a Schedule I narcotic, along with drugs like heroin and LSD, the specific compounds used to make it are constantly changing to skirt drug enforcement laws, making it difficult for police to crack down on its sale. As certain compounds are made illegal, new, unclassified chemicals are substituted, leading to unpredictable and often dangerous results for users.
Sales of spice at 702 Mart involved customers asking for "incense" or one of the many brand names the drug is sold under. The drugs were kept hidden in four drawers behind the counter, with a separate cash register used only for spice sales.
Jarjees told police he would take the money from spice sales and put it into the register at the end of the day, ringing up fake grocery purchases to account for the difference.
Of the 24 pounds of spice seized by police from 702 Mart, only half a pound tested positive for containing Schedule I narcotics, according to a police report.
Jarjees told police that he purchased the spice on a daily or weekly basis from two men he knew only as Bili and Mohammed.
Jarjees currently faces two felony charges of trafficking a controlled substance and has a hearing scheduled in Las Vegas Justice Court on July 27.