Manchester, NH- A judge allowed Manchester store TN Gas and Convenience to be reopened Monday, saying that city officials should not have revoked the store’s license before a holding a hearing. TN was shut down despite lack of evidence that the store was selling the designer drug “spice”, an herbal mixture sprayed with various synthetic cannabinoids.
The city of Manchester and surrounding areas have been struggling with several dozen reported overdoses of spice. Governor Maggie Hassan (D-Exeter) declared a state of emergency in New Hampshire on August 14th in response to the overdoses. However, TN was closed down by city officials on August 13th, one day before the declaration.
Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Diane Nicolosi ruled that the city was not following procedures properly in shutting down the store. “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support a finding by (the city) that the danger to public health, welfare and/or safety was immediate when the license was revoked,” read Nicolosi’s ruling.
Nicolosi further declared several reasons why TN should not have been abruptly closed. Governor Hassan had not yet declared a state of emergency at the time of the closure, and a police search of the store did not result in any spice being found. TN was shut down based solely on claims of a user of spice who had overdosed and told police he had bought it at TN; Nicolosi was suspicious of the informant’s credibility.
“Shut down based on the testimony of a person who lives in a park who is homeless and overdosed — no name, no affidavit, nothing under oath,” said Joe Kelly Levasseur, attorney for TN owner Saif Nourie. “The testimony of someone who overdoes and said they bought it at TN.”
Nourie had denied selling spice, and Levasseur told Nicolosi that while his client had never sold the drug in his store, he would have ceased the sales of spice if ordered to do so.
The city attorney argued that officials have the authority, based on a city ordinance, to revoke a business license in the case of “the immediate risk to public health”.
Since the reopening of TN, the store has suffered profit losses and spoiled goods. Salah Flaih, who says he is the father of the owner, noted that the store’s employees have lost wages because of the closure. “We have seven employees. They have no money. They have families, they have kids,” said Flaih.
Although the store is now open, another hearing before Manchester’s Administration Committee has been scheduled to determine future operation of TN.