In what Mobile Police Chief James Barber called possibly the biggest bust of its kind in the city’s history, authorities on Friday, May 9 seized almost 20 pounds of synthetic marijuana — or spice — worth about $614,000.

Officers with the Mobile County Street Enforcement Narcotics Team arrested 33-yearold Tamer S. Foquahaa after the search of a storage unit at 664 Azalea Road where the more than 20,000 packages were being stored. Foquahaa is charged with trafficking of illegal drugs and is currently in Metro Jail, being held with no bond.

Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich said Foquahaa faces 10 to 99 years to life in prison on the charge.

The bust comes weeks after MPD reported an increase in hospital visits due to a new, more dangerous batch of spice found in the community.

“This is the single most significant threat to the health and safety of the public since the crack cocaine epidemic that began in the 1980s,” Barber said at a press conference Monday morning. “This is not only a health threat, we are seeing systemic issues of significant violent crimes in relation to the use of spice.”

More alarming for Rich, is that spice is being marketed to youth in the community in the way that the drug is packaged. She said in some cases it’s made to look like a cell phone and the popular application known as Angry Birds. She urged parents to talk to kids about the dangers of spice.

Barber said the while this bust is significant, it illustrates the problem the MPD is facing when combating the drug in the community.

“We’ve scratched the surface of what’s happening in our community,” he said.

Barber said the investigation is ongoing and the drug is still being analyzed to see what chemicals were used. Barber said most of the packaging is more professional looking and includes barcodes, meaning it was produced elsewhere and transported to the area. He said some packages looked more homemade.

Last month, the MPD and the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office came together to warn the public about a dramatic increase in the number of emergency calls related to the marijuana analog. At that time, interim Mobile Fire-Rescue Chief Randy Smith said the department had received 25 calls in 17 days, compared to two calls in the previous month.

In addition, MPD officials stated that they believe spice was related to the deaths of two adult males. A new version of the drug hitting the streets now is thought to cause cardiac-related issues, as well as hallucinations.

At the Tuesday, May 6 Mobile City Council meeting, Barber asked the council to consider suspending the business license of any business which knowingly allows the sale of spice on its premises, but council attorney Jim Rossler told the council there would be an issue with due process.

Barber said the department would continue to use the resources at its disposal to stop the distribution of spice in the community. As for Friday’s bust, Barber said he was “wowed.”

“I see 20,000 medical emergencies that were prevented,” he told reporters. “We may have saved a life or maybe several lives.”