The battle against the synthetic drug known as "spice" is an ongoing one, both in the stores and on the streets of Kern County.
"It's worse than meth, it's worse than heroin," said a man named Troy. He spoke about the drug while walking near Union Avenue, shadowed by a woman he says was coming down from the drug. She was shouting and incoherent.
Troy spoke about his struggles with spice, which is typically made from a synthetic plant material that's sprayed with unknown chemicals (sometimes an unknown number of times) and then smoked. He was off of it until recently, when he relapsed.
"Bakersfield is the spice capital as far as I'm concerned," he said. Troy mentioned "cigarette stores on every corner" who sell the drugs as part of the issue.
Kern Public Health is attempting to remedy that issue.
"It was really quiet for a while," said Brynn Carrigan, assistant director of Kern County Public Health. "And then we started receiving complaints about spice and facilities and so we started responding to the complaints."
In the month of May, they'll be handing down punishments to 5 stores who allegedly possessed spice (or similar drugs) with the intent to sell. Those stores are:
- McFarland Smoke Shop: Tobacco license permanently revoked effective May 12 after 2 violations
- Oildale Tobacco and Discount Store: Tobacco license suspended 30 days effective May 12
- Smoker's Alley: Tobacco license suspended 30 days effective May 17
- 2 Havana House locations, one on Airport Drive and the other on Niles Street: Tobacco licenses suspended 30 days effective May 29
"It feels like an accomplishment for our community, it's a win for our community," Carrigan said of the busts.
But the drug is still prevalent on the streets. Carlos Baldovinos sees the effects; he's the executive director at The Mission at Kern County.
"It's very easy to get on the streets and it's very inexpensive to get," Baldovinos said. "If somebody takes a bad batch, they can die from it. This is not a joke."
Both Baldovinos and Troy mentioned spice as being on the same deadly plane as heroin and meth. At the end of the interview, Troy pleaded with people, urging them not to use the drug. He says it's killed one of his friends.
"Stay away...stay away," he said through tears. "It's killed my friends, it's taken my family, it's taken myself. Stay away."