Utah Man Blames Spice Addiction For Torching Apartment Complex

By McCarton Ackerman 02/28/14

Dustin Bowman was given no mercy by a federal magistrate due to his previous arrests and failed battle with addiction.

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A Utah electrician who torched an entire apartment complex and caused $6 million in damages is blaming his addiction to the synthetic weed known as Spice for the mishap. Dustin Bowman, 34, set ablaze the still unfinished building that was supposed to have 61 units and cover 64,000 square feet, but no injuries were reported afterwards.

Surveillance video showed Bowman starting the fire by lighting cardboard and throwing it into a bathtub leaning against a wood wall. He offered a bizarre explanation for his behavior afterwards, telling prosecutors that "maybe I wanted to see the fire department." U.S. Attorney Office prosecutor Drew Yates said that "the last year has been a difficult one for Mr. Bowman."

But Federal magistrate Dustin Pead was less sympathetic and decided to keep Bowman in jail. Pead said that while he was concerned about Bowman's spice addiction, he was more upset about his arrests on drug-related charges on consecutive days, failure to appear in court on those charges, and continuing to use despite attending court-ordered drug rehab. "He had all the incentive in the world to avoid future problems and he was unable to do that," said Pead. Bowman's attorney, Jamie Zenger, acknowledging that it would have been difficult to keep him out of jail based on the overwhelming evidence against him. He is scheduled to be arraigned on March 6.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has also classified Spice as a Schedule I controlled substance as of three weeks ago. The drug has been designated with the special “temporary” status as federal officials are now moving forward to make synthetic pot a permanent member of the list which also currently includes marijuana, crack cocaine, and heroin.

“The vast majority of (synthetic cannabis) are manufactured in Asia by individuals who are not bound by any manufacturing requirements or quality control standards,” said the DEA. “There is an incorrect assumption that these products are safe.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.