QUEENS, N.Y. (Legal Newsline) - An attorney for a New York head shop says state Attorney General Eric Scheiderman's recent consent order demanding his client remove alleged synthetic drugs from its shelves is "replete with nonsense."
According to a news release issued by the attorney general last week, the order demands that Look Ah Hookah's locations in Rochester, Henrietta and Webster permanently remove mislabeled or unlabeled products, including "intoxicants" like synthetic marijuana, from their shelves.
Under the terms of the order, Theresa J. Dyer, the owner of Look Ah Hookah, must pay a $30,000 penalty and $2,000 in attorney costs.
Orders also have been issued to remove the synthetic drugs from Baldwin-based Daze Smoke Shop, Nanuet-based Village Sensations, Poughkeepsie-based Giggles, Albany-based Shining Star Enterprises, Plattsburgh-based 20 Below/This and That, Utica-based Goodfellas Alternative Smoke Shop, Endicott-based Rolling Fire Glassworks, Watertown-based Trip on the Wild Side II, Syracuse-based Twisted Headz, Buffalo- and Commack-based Pavilion International, and Commack- and Oceanside-based East Coast Psychedelics.
Queens attorney Thomas Hillgardner, who is representing East Coast Psychedelics and who has been an advocate for ending cannabis prohibition for many years, said Wednesday he and his client plan to "vigorously fight" the action.
"The attorney general's papers are fast and loose on the facts," he said. "They are replete with nonsense about bath salts."
Bath salts are considered a type of "designer drug," which are intended to imitate the effects of other drugs like marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine and methamphetamine.
Hillgardner said his client doesn't sell bath salts.
"It's cookie-cutter stuff," he said of the attorney general's allegations. "They're bringing the same papers against people and shoe-horning the facts."
What angers Hillgardner even more is that Schneiderman's office sent a prelitigation letter to his client but that the attorney general refused to respond to a letter he and his client sent back.
"We engaged them and said, what are you talking about? They said my client was committing fraud. We wanted to know how," he said.
"Next thing you know, we got a TRO. They weren't interested in talking."
"My client wants to abide by the law," Hillgardner said, but added that what Schneiderman is doing is "selective prosecution."
"Here, they send us this prelitigation letter, but they don't want to say 'boo' about a single fact. They don't want to give us a heads-up.
"If they're really concerned about kids getting a hold of these drugs, the fastest way (to deal with it) is to call people up and let us know what they're having a problem with."
In his news release last week, Schneiderman said the proliferation of synthetic drugs has become a "crisis" in the state.
"Today's order proves that, by taking a creative approach in using the state's existing labeling laws, we can get swift results to remove dangerous synthetic drugs off store shelves and hold sellers accountable for breaking the law," the attorney general said at the time.
"We will continue to use every tool in our arsenal to combat the growing and dangerous synthetic drug epidemic."
Last week's consent order, signed by Judge David M. Barry of the Monroe County Supreme Court, permanently bans the sales of any synthetic intoxicants or drugs.
The order follows what the attorney general described as "undercover visits" by members of his office into the head shops.
Hillgardner contends the attorney general is simply on a "fishing expedition."
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at email@example.com.