Drug investigators have seized a $12,000 haul of synthetic cannabis being openly sold from adult stores across the city, the first such raids that have ever been conducted by ACT Policing.
The cannabis substitutes, which some users rate as giving a 25-minute high, are often marketed as a ''safe'' alternative to marijuana.
Packets of the cannabis have been sold from a range of Canberra stores, with apparent confusion by staff over whether the synthetic compounds are legal.
The formula for various types of synthetic cannabis is regularly tweaked to get around current legislation, creating a headache for law enforcement authorities and law makers.
But inquiries made by The Canberra Times last week sparked a widespread operation by police, who targeted every adult store in Fyshwick and Hume, and one store in Civic.
The ACT Policing drug team seized about 200 packets of synthetic cannabis from some of those stores, including prohibited brands K2 and Spice.
Other brands have been sent to government laboratories for testing, in an attempt to determine whether they are prohibited under current law.
Police say the stores were ''very
co-operative'' during the inspections. ACT Policing drug investigations Detective First Constable Carla Paschel said many of the owners were unaware the synthetic cannabis may have been illegal.
''It's a fairly unknown area, a lot of the people selling the items couldn't tell us what was in them,'' Constable Paschel said.
The seizure of the marijuana substitute in stores was described as a first for ACT Policing.
''It's still a fairly new thing to all law enforcement,'' Constable Paschel said.
''We have come across it in a couple of dealings just with people out on the road, but certainly with retail stores I'd say it was a first,'' she said.
The synthetic compound has been difficult to police, with the chemical compound tweaked to get around current law.
Constable Paschel said synthetic cannabis would be a focus for police in the future, and the attention would be turned to the online supply of the drug.
Testing of the material will take place over the next few months.
It is currently unclear if any charges will be laid.