When Robert Davis begins to speak about his grandson his voice trembles and tears threaten to spill over.
He wipes them away with shaky fingers.
Robert Payne Davis, who carries the same name as his grandfather, was released from jail five days before Christmas -- just in time to cobble together a celebration with his two children.
The 23-year-old was recently convicted of felony breaking and entering.He was arrested Nov. 5, and is serving his sentence in the Cleveland County Detention Center "Now that he's made his bed, I understand he has to lie in it," Davis said.
The grandfather said the younger Davis has tried rehab in the past for his drug addiction, but until he decides enough is enough, it won't make a difference.
"People say there's problems eliminating drugs, but if we don't try, we'll never get it done," he said.
'100 times worse than marijuana'
For Robert Payne Davis, it started with smoking pot in high school.
Gradually, he moved on to other drugs.
"...it's just carried on and got worse and worse," his grandfather said.
Eventually, he graduated to synthetic marijuana and bath salts.
Synthetic marijuana consists of plant material that has been laced with substances that users claim mimic the active ingredient in marijuana.
The drug is also known as K2 or Spice.
Bath salts contain mandmade chemicals.
"This stuff is 100 times worse than marijuana," Davis said.
He said his grandson's behavior changed when he was on the drug. He became undisciplined. A loner."He blamed everybody for what he's doing," Davis said. "Everybody is at fault but him." He said his grandson started selling things for money. "I told him in advance that he would start stealing," Davis said.
It wasn't long before that prediction came true.
Davis said the first time his grandson was caught breaking into a house, he was convicted of a misdemeanor charge and didn't serve a jail sentence. The second time he was convicted of a felony.
"It's really a heartbreaking situation to see your kid hooked on something like this," he said.
'It's right under our noses'
Davis is desperate for a solution to the easy availability of "synthetic" drugs, some of which remain legal.
Anyone old enough to smoke can walk in and purchase the drug.Although laws are created to outlaw one chemical group, another one is created on its heels.
There are at least two shops in Cleveland County that sell the "synthetic" products.
At the Smokers Edge on West Dixon Boulevard, a glass counter features a wide array of colorful packets.
Each packet contains about a gram of what is advertised as an "herbal blend."
"This product contains no forbidden ingredients," the package states.
A store clerk recommended a brand called Ace of Spades, featuring a skeleton holding a deck of cards, for first-time users.
"I feel like the public of Cleveland County is not aware of how much damage this stuff is doing," Davis said. "I want to alert them to what is going on in this county. It's right under our noses."
Lawmakers say it's up to law enforcement officers, but law enforcement leaders say their hands are tied.
H. Alan Pell, staff attorney for the NC General Assembly, wrote in an email to NC Rep. Kelly Hastings, who represents Cleveland and Gaston counties in the 110th state House district, that all synthetic cannabinoids are illegal in North Carolina.
"Legislation was passed in 2011 to amend General Statue 90-94 to include those substances," Pell wrote in the email that Hastings shared with The Star . "The legislation was drafted with the assistance of the SBI to include all of the chemical 'backbone' structures of the substance. In some jurisdictions, the drug labs producing the synthetic substance had made changes as specific types were made illegal. Our statute was drafted as a 'catchall.'"
Pell wrote that if a synthetic cannabinoid is being sold in the state, it is a law enforcement issue, not a legislative issue.
"Law enforcement officials would have to take a sample and send it to the SBI lab, which would verify that it falls under the new statute," he wrote.
Cleveland County Sheriff Alan Norman said that is not quite true."It's a cat-and-mouse game of the manufacturer removing one ingredient from the compound whenever it's deemed in violation of the general statute," Norman said. "It's ever-changing. It (G.S. 90-94) covered it at that day at that moment."
'Let's get the source of the problem'
Norman said about two weeks ago, the sheriff's office narcotics division seized more than 70 different types of packages being sold at a Smokers Edge and a sample was taken from each packet and submitted to the SBI lab to see if it's a controlled substance under the bath salts general statue.
"It covers bath salts but it doesn't cover all," Norman said.
He said the products contain a minimum of 450 different types of chemicals.
Even if some of the products are being sold legally, he said they are still dangerous.
He said the substances are "highly addictive, extremely potent. It wreaks havoc on the body."
Davis said even if his grandson does come clean following his jail sentence, he'll carry a criminal record with him for the rest of his life.
And the impact of his addiction doesn't just end there.
Davis said he and his wife are helping raise Robert Payne Davis' two children.
"It don't really stop with just the person using them," Davis said. "It creates problems for the family and the future family."
Davis said laws need to change.
"Let's get the source of the problem," he said. "Raleigh's not on top of it."
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