Flowery Branch police made the city’s first arrest involving synthetic marijuana on Wednesday.
Mazhir Ali Siddiqui was arrested about 9 p.m. following a five-month investigation into the sale of the illegal substance. Police said Siddiqui possessed, sold and distributed synthetic marijuana at Best Buy Quality Food at 5415 Atlanta Highway.
Interim Police Chief David Spillers said the investigation into Siddiqui began in March, shortly after Gov. Nathan Deal signed Senate Bill 370, which banned the substances often referred to as spice or herbal incense.
“These products are sold and were being sold very commonly throughout the entire region,” Spillers said.
“Essentially what happened was we had a lot of complaints from the citizens about some of the behavioral and medical issues these synthetic cannabinoids were causing,” which led to the investigation.
Spillers said police sent letters to all Flowery Branch merchants in March informing them of the passage of Chase’s Law, which was named for a 16-year-old from Fayette County who drowned in a hot tub after smoking synthetic marijuana.
After giving the stores time to dispose of the substances, police followed up to ensure compliance. At that time, all merchants were within the law, Spillers said.
“A little later on we started getting more complaints about Mr. Siddiqui and did a spot check and saw that he was still in possession of the synthetic cannabinoids,” Spillers said.
No synthetic marijuana was found when Siddiqui was arrested, Spillers said. Siddiqui said he does not own the store, but others, including the property’s owner, identified him as the business’ owner, according to Spillers.
The investigation into Siddiqui lasted five months because it did not warrant immediate action.
“This was not the type of case we had to be in a hurry on,” Spillers said. “We could make sure that things were done as correctly as possible.”
During the investigation, police received advice from outside agencies including Georgia Drugs and Narcotics, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Gainesville-Hall County Multi Agency Narcotics Squad.
Police are still looking into other Best Buy Quality Food employees, but said Siddiqui was the main focus of the investigation.
Other Flowery Branch merchants are all complying with the law, Spillers said.