Judge slams spice search
MANCHESTER — A downtown convenience store re-opened Monday afternoon, five days after city officials shut its doors, alleging it sold a brand of synthetic marijuana implicated in numerous overdoses.
TN Gas and Convenience reopened shortly before 5 p.m. Monday, after Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Diane Nicolosi found the city did not follow proper procedures when officials revoked the business licenses of TN Convenience and two other stores last Wednesday.
Salah Flaih, who said he was the owner’s father, said he was happy, but the store has lost sales of $10,000 a day. Milk and other perishables have gone out of date, he said, noting he couldn’t sell gas in his tanks as the price dropped, and his clerks were out of work.
“We have seven employees. They have no money. They have families, they have kids,” Flaih said.
Flaih said TN has stopped selling all brands of spice; he showed an empty glass shelf where the price — four grams for $10 — was still posted.
The revocations took place after authorities logged at least 34 overdoses and said the public’s health was at risk from the bubblegum-flavored Smacked! brand of synthetic marijuana, or spice. On Monday, Nicolosi held a hearing, after TN lawyer Joe Kelly Levasseur, a Manchester alderman, challenged the revocation.
In her five-page ruling issued Monday, Nicolosi faulted the police report and city procedures that formed the basis of the TN revocation.
“Based on the totality of the circumstances of this case, the court finds there was insufficient evidence to support a finding by (the city) that the danger to public health, welfare and/or safety was immediate when the license was revoked,” Nicolosi wrote.
Efforts to reach Police Chief David Mara on Monday evening were unsuccessful.
Police targeted TN after a person said the store sold the spice brand responsible for an overdose.
Police searched the store on Aug. 13 and found no packages of the spice in question. But when police asked City Clerk Matthew Normand to revoke the license, they did not disclose the results of the search, Nicolosi pointed out.
Nicolosi highlighted several factors to support her decision:
• Gov. Maggie Hassan had not yet declared a state of emergency related to spice overdoses.
• TN denied selling the product, and TN owner Saif Nourie told Nicolosi he will not sell Bubblegum spice.
• The search found no Bubblegum spice.
• The credibility of the spice user is unknown.
Nicolosi’s ruling is only an injunction that temporarily lifts the license revocation.
Under state law, TN and the two other convenience stores — Han’s Food Mart, 353 Maple St., and Union Street Market, 621 Union St., — deserve a hearing.
The TN hearing is scheduled for 3 p.m. today at City Hall before the Administration Committee. Aldermen on the committee could vote to revoke the license.
New Hampshire Union Leader reporter Dale Vincent contributed to this article.