Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced on July 10 that his office filed 12 lawsuits across the State of New York against 16 head shop retailers for violating the state’s labeling laws by selling designer drugs, including commonly known synthetics such as “bath salts” and “synthetic marijuana.” Named in the suit were East Cost Psychedelics, located in Oceanside, and Daze Smoke Shop in Baldwin.
A day later, judges across the state placed restraining orders on 11 of the businesses named in Schneiderman’s lawsuits to stop the sale of the designer drugs.
With psychoactive effects similar to those in substances obtained for illegal drug use, these products are typically packaged with innocuous names and bright graphics.
“The proliferation of illegal synthetic drugs has become a national crisis. In Suffolk County and across the state, our undercover investigations have revealed the widespread sales and promotion of bath salts and other dangerous drugs that are destroying people’s lives,” said Schneiderman. “We discovered that head shop employees were giving tutorials on how to use dangerous intoxicants. With today’s actions, we are fighting back to control this crisis, and ensure that the days of profiting off the illegal sale of these dangerous drugs are over.”
The undercover video investigation discovered head shops were labeling these products with 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. 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 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.”
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, Binghamton, 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, and seeks an immediate end to the sale of mislabeled drugs. In addition, 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.