A BUNDABERG tobacconist who illegally sold $80,000 worth of synthetic drugs from his shop has been given a hefty fine for involving himself in the "evil trade".
Gary Donald Sellin, who owns the Sugarland tobacco shop, yesterday faced Bundaberg Magistrates Court, pleading guilty to three charges relating to the supply of a regulated poison.
Police prosecutor Senior Constable Donna Sperling said when police raided Sellin's business in March 2013, they located 360g of three different types of the drug.
"The defendant has co-operated with police and declared numerous suspected cannabinoids," she said.
The prosecutor said Sellin made admission to selling about $80,000 worth of the product over the 12 months leading up to the raid and that almost $70,000 worth of tax invoices relating to the synthetic drugs were produced.
"He advised he did not know what was in the product seized by police or in what he had been selling in the past," she said.
"He was selling the product for people to smoke even though the packaging of the products was labelled 'not for human consumption'."
The behaviour landed at least one other person in court who was found with the drug in their vehicle and thought it was legal because they had purchased it from the shop.
Solicitor Rian Dwyer represented 62-year-old Sellin who had no criminal history and told police he did not know selling the synthetic drugs was illegal.
Mr Dwyer asked that a suppression order be put in place to avoid any media coverage affecting Sellin's business but Magistrate Deb Vasta denied the request.
"He's been a tobacconist for 14 years, it's his life and has been his life for some period of time," Mr Dwyer said.
"He's been a tobacconist for 14 years, there's no evidence this has occurred before.
"It appears to be a one time thing."
Mrs Vasta said she did not accept claims by Sellin that he hid the synthetic drugs under the counter because he didn't want to "push it" to customers.
"I think you hid them under the counter as a way of escaping detection," she said.
"You sold synthetic cannabis to unsuspecting customers from your tobacco shop," she said.
"You were selling them to innocent people who believed these drugs were legal.
"You have significantly profited from selling these drugs to people who rely upon your assurances as a tobacconist that these were legal drugs."
Mrs Vasta said the dangers of synthetic drugs were very real.
"It is an evil trade to be making money from customers who are trying in their own belief to do the right thing and not fall foul of the law," she said.
"You have a responsibility to your customers not to put them in any danger.
"Time and again we see people presenting in the emergency department of hospitals with serious symptoms as a result of using them."
Sellin was fined $6000 and no conviction was recorded against him.
"I know of other people who have come before this court who have been convicted because of your conduct," she said.
What is synthetic cannabis?
According to the Queensland Police, synthetic cannabinoid consist of a number of classes of chemically unrelated structures, which are all functionally similar to one of the active components in cannabis.
When consumed, the product is generally considered to mimic the effects of cannabis.
While the maximum penalty the court was able to hand Mr Sellin this case was a fine, the law was changed in May this year so that synthetic drugs now fall under the Drugs Misuse Act.
Snr Const Sperling said if this defendant was charged after the laws were changed, he would have had to face a higher court with much heavier sentences.
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