Charges that a Northeast businessman sold synthetic marijuana in his Somerton store were withdrawn Dec. 4. However, Kamel Gerges, operator of the 1 Stop Smoke Shop at Verree and Red Lion roads, faces similar, but more serious, charges in Montgomery County, said Pennsylvania Assistant Attorney General Kate Gibson.
Gerges, 34, was arrested in late July during a statewide law-enforcement sweep called “Operation Artificial High.” He was arrested by Montgomery County authorities on Nov. 6.
In late July, authorities said drug paraphernalia worth more than $200,000 and a small amount of synthetic marijuana were seized from the Egyptian citizen’s store on the 10000 block of Verree Road. Also raided in July was Gerges’ Philmont Heights home, where investigators found bank records and a small amount of synthetic marijuana, authorities said.
It was the records and packaging equipment found in Gerges’ home and business that led to the Montgomery County charges, Gibson said in an interview Tuesday.
Gerges’ paperwork showed he supplied a Willow Grove business with his own brand of synthetic marijuana — Hakuna Matata — for more than a year and billed the store for more than $44,000, she said. Gerges also sold synthetic marijuana to stores in Bucks County, Gibson added.
Gerges has been free on 10 percent of $250,000 bail since Nov. 16, according to court records. He is not permitted to work at the Verree Road store, Gibson said.
Synthetic pot has been illegal in Pennsylvania since August 2011. It often is sold in convenience stores and gas stations and retails under names such as Kush, K2, Spice, Cloud Nine, Dead Man and Herbal Smoke. The cost generally is low and synthetic pot doesn’t show up in most urine tests. Federal authorities have said it is the second most abused drug by American teenagers. The first is marijuana.
Many of the chemicals — synthetic cannabanoids — used to make Kush and K2, are imported from China or India in powder form. They’re mixed with liquids and sprayed on a variety of dried leaves, federal officials say. ••
Reporter John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or firstname.lastname@example.org