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Post date: July 11 2012

Judges Across The State Side With A.G. Schneiderman, Ordering Removal Of Illegally Labeled Bath Salts And Other Synthetic Drugs From “Head Shops”

Following A.G.’s Undercover Investigation, Temporary Restraining Orders Will Result In Immediate Removal Of Dangerous And Mislabeled Products From Shelves
Schneiderman: Quick Court Decisions Demonstrate Urgency Of Stopping Illegal Sale Of Dangerous Synthetic Drugs

BUFFALO- Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that judges across the state have issued temporary restraining orders against 12 head shop retailers blocking them from selling designer drugs, including commonly known synthetics such as “bath salts” and “synthetic marijuana.” The orders come one day after the Attorney General filed lawsuits against head shops with 16 locations statewide for violating the state's labeling laws. At a press conference Tuesday in Rochester, Attorney General Schneiderman detailed legal actions that followed statewide undercover investigations revealing that head shop employees were illegally selling and promoting dangerous synthetic drugs.

To issue today’s temporary restraining orders, the judges found that Attorney General Schneiderman’s lawsuits had shown a likelihood of success on the merits, and the potential for irreparable harm if the products were not removed. In Syracuse, a judge instructed personnel from the Attorney General’s office to immediately go to the head shop and verify all misbranded and mislabeled products had been removed from the shelves pursuant to the court order.

“The quick action by these judges to immediately remove dangerous, mislabeled products from store shelves is an indication of the urgency of addressing this problem. This is a major victory for the health and safety of consumers in New York State,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “These orders demonstrate that all levels of government in our state must fight back to control this crisis, and ensure that the days of profiting off the illegal sale of these dangerous drugs are over.”

Judges issued orders removing synthetic drugs from the following retailers sued by Attorney General Schneiderman:

  • Pavilion International in Buffalo and Commack
  • Look Ah Hookah in Rochester (2 locations)
  • Twisted Headz in Syracuse
  • Trip on the Wild Side II in Watertown
  • Rolling Fire Glassworks in Endicott
  • Goodfellas Alternative Smoke Shop in Utica
  • 20 Below/ This and That in Plattsburgh
  • Shining Star Enterprises in Albany
  • Giggles in Poughkeepsie
  • Village Sensations in Nanuet
  • East Coast Psychedelics in Oceansideand Commack
  • Daze Smoke Shop in Baldwin

The sale of these dangerous drugs in head shops has contributed to a public health crisis in New York State and across the nation. With psychoactive effects similar to those of illegal drug use, these products are typically packaged with innocuous names and bright graphics to give the misleading impression that their use is harmless.

Attorney General Schneiderman's undercover video investigation, announced Tuesday, discovered head shops were labeling these dangerous products going by names like "MJ Blueberry Aromatic Potpourri," "Bizarro," "AMPED," "VOODOO" or "Cali Crunch," and marketing them with false descriptions such as “incense,” “butterfly attractant,” “glass cleaner,” “potpourri,” “sachets,” “dietary supplements,” or other common household products. Some products had no label whatsoever and most lacked comprehensive ingredient listings. All were deceptive and dangerous to consumers.

Federal and state laws and regulations require that all consumer commodities, at a minimum, be labeled to describe net contents, identity of the product, and the name and place of business of the product's manufacturer, packer, and distributor.

Although Federal and State authorities have attempted to outlaw certain chemicals and their analogs and to remove these items from commerce, their efforts continue to fall short as the chemists and producers providing the products for head shops simply alter formulas and stay ahead of the legislation.

The Attorney General's lawsuits also pursue retailers for illegal sale of nitrous oxide to the public, a specific violation of the State Public Health Law. Commonly known as "Whip Its," nitrous oxide has been linked to several deaths by asphyxiation and other adverse health effects. The gas is typically used by youths who see it as an easy "high."

Examples of the different types of reactions individuals have when under the influence of these dangerous concoctions take place throughout the state, include:

  • In Jefferson County, a 22-year-old man crashed into several cars in an Olive Garden parking lot then told police he had smoked "Spice" before driving.
  • In New York City, a 21-year-old film student leapt to his death off a Roosevelt Island balcony after smoking salvia, a hallucinogenic plant.
  • In Oneida County, a 45-year-old man high on bath salts and covered in his own blood was arrested after police say he chased his neighbor and trapped her in her home.

During the investigation, investigators from the Attorney General's office shopped at number of typical head shops located in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, Watertown, Plattsburgh, Albany, Poughkeepsie, Endicott, Rockland, and Nassau Counties. Investigators entered each store and purchased a representative sample of illegally labeled intoxicants, capturing the transactions and interactions with store personnel using undercover video.

The Attorney General's lawsuit has been filed in 12 counties across the state against 16 store locations, from Buffalo to Long Island. In addition to successfully seeking an immediate end to the sale of mislabeled drugs, the lawsuit is seeking an accounting of all commodities sold or offered for sale including the name of the product, the manufacturer and/or distributor of the product, a description of the product, the retail price of the product and the number of units sold.

The investigation was conducted by investigators Chad Shelmidine and Ryan Fannon under the supervision of Senior Investigator Christopher Holland, directed by Assistant Chief Antoine Karam.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorneys General In-Charge, Deanna Nelson and Gary Brown along with Assistant Attorney General, Judith Malkin under the supervision of Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Offices, Martin J. Mack.