Two years for smoke shop pharmacist


A pharmacist has been jailed for two years after selling illegal synthetic cannabis

It’s the first time a West Australian has been imprisoned for trading in the drug, which was prohibited in a November 2015 law.

Hoang Nam Nguyen was a “caring” pharmacist who worked in Highgate and delivered palliative medicines to patients at all times of night, an article in the West Australian says.

But Mr Nguyen is also the owner of the controversial chain of Cloud 9 smoke shops around Perth, and has been in trouble with the law before.

In 2017, he lost an appeal against a $60,000 fine and $36,500 court costs for importing more than 2000 ice pipes.

He had claimed that as a non-smoker, he was unaware that the pipes were for smoking ice, not tobacco.

Now, mainstream media report that he has pleaded guilty to 17 charges of possessing a prohibited drug, with the intention of selling or supplying it.

In 2014, Mr Nguyen had a quantity of products analysed and, after it tested positive for certain active ingredients, asked staff to remove and destroy them. However, he then obtained new stock from a different supplier.

In November 2015, new legislation was introduced in West Australia to prohibit the sale, supply, manufacture, advertising or promotion of any psychoactive substance, or substances which claim to have a psychoactive effect.

After the laws were passed, law enforcement contacted retailers and asked them to stop selling these products, and dispose of them, by 18 November.

The next day, police attended the Rockingham Cloud 9 outlet. Mr Nguyen was subsequently charged with the sale of synthetic cannabinoids, which included actives such as 5F-AMB, AB-CHMINACA and FUB-AMB, at a number of Cloud 9 outlets.

According to the West Australian, he continued to sell the drugs and only stopped after some staff were also arrested.

Charges against his staff were eventually dropped.

According to reporter Tim Clarke, WA District Court judge Michael Gething highlighted the “dichotomy” between Mr Nguyen’s work as a caring pharmacist and his sale of harmful products such as cigarettes, the ice pipes and synthetic cannabis.

“He’s selling nicotine and Nicobate at different premises,” he said.

The “sophistication and scale” of the sales and Mr Nguyen’s continued selling of the synthetic cannabis, despite his knowledge of its likely illegality, constituted a serious case, he said.

Mr Nguyen was sentenced to two years’ jail. He will be eligible for parole after one year.

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