FOUNTAIN, Colo. - A man arrested for selling spice at his Fountain convenience store said Wednesday he didn't know the drug was illegal.
Police arrested Kong Hoon Kim Saturday for distributing synthetic marijuana, also knows as spice.
Kim made his first appearance in an El Paso County courtroom Wednesday. He faces charges of distributing synthetic marijuana.
Police seized 96 grams of synthetic marijuana from Kim's Qwik Way store off Lake Avenue in Fountain. It's the same drug that killed a Colorado Springs teenager in 2011
Kim is facing punishment for a crime he said he didn't know he committed.
"They think I'm some kind of big dealer, Mafia, something like that. I'm not," said Kim.
Kim said he is a hard-working man who moved to the U.S. 35 years ago. Now he said spice is ruining his name.
"It's wrong," said Kim.
In 2011, Colorado lawmakers outlawed spice. Before that, Kim said he used to buy spice legally from a wholesaler in Denver. It stopped selling it, so he stopped selling it.
Then, someone who he thought worked for the wholesaler suggested he sell it again.
"I said, 'it's illegal I think.' He said 'No, it's legal.' So I started to sell it," said Kim.
He said he sold it for two months and then police showed up. Police took samples from his store and sent it to a lab for testing. In the meantime, Kim called the Drug Enforcement Agency to see if spice was illegal.
"I found out myself it's illegal so I stopped sell(ing) (it)," said Kim.
Even still, Kim could face prison time.
"Lack of knowledge is not going to be a defense that would hold any weight with the court," said criminal defense lawyer Jeremy Loew.
Loew owns The Law Offices of Jeremy Loew in downtown Colorado Springs. He said the punishment for distributing synthetic marijuana has gone up.
"In 2013 the state Legislature passed new drug reform laws," said Loew.
Distributing synthetic marijuana is a class 3 drug felony. People convicted on the charge could be locked up for two to six years.
Loew said if Kim has a clean record, he could get probation and avoid serving time. Another option for Kim to avoid prison is a plea deal.
KRDO NewsChannel 13 checked Kim's criminal record in Colorado. He pleaded guilty to providing alcohol to a minor in 2004.