WATERTOWN, N.Y. (Legal Newsline) - New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced victory Tuesday in a state Supreme Court case in his office's litigation against retailers selling mislabeled designer drugs.
Supreme Court Justice James McClusky issued a decision filed late on Monday that holds John Tebbetts III, the owner of eight head shops in New York, responsible for selling deceptively labeled drug products to consumers from his stores, despite denying that they were meant for human consumption.
"Judge McClusky has seen through the fraud being perpetrated by the industry, and his ruling will be another important tool in dismantling an insidious growth of illicit over the counter drug sales within our communities," Schneiderman said. "The judge'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 drugs from store shelves and hold sellers accountable for breaking the law. We will continue to use every tool in our arsenal to combat the growing and dangerous synthetic drug epidemic."
The ruling comes after Schneiderman's undercover operation examined head shops throughout the state. His office found that retailers of head shops were selling designer drugs such as synthetic marijuana and bath salts and that some employees were promoting the drugs and advising consumers on how to prepare and ingest them.
The court's decision and order permanently bans the sale of any misbranded, mislabeled or unapproved intoxicants or drugs. Tebbetts must produce an accounting of all commodities he sold or offered for sales between January 1, 2012 and August 1, 2012, including product names, product manufacturers/distributors, product descriptions, product retail prices and the number of units sold. A hearing to determine applicable costs and penalties is scheduled for Feb. 20.
Under the state's labeling law, consumer commodity packaging must contain the name and place of business of the distributor, packer or manufacturer, in addition to the common product name, net quantity of servings, net quantity of contents, applications or uses of the product, and appropriate directions and warnings for customary use.
On July 10, Schneiderman filed 12 lawsuits against 16 head shops in New York state. His office received temporary restraining orders from all 12 judges within 36 hours of the filing. The restraining orders effectively removed the mislabeled products from the stores' shelves.
Temporary orders were issued against the Albany-based Shining Star, the Syracuse-based Twisted Headz, the Nanuet-based Village Sensations, the Baldwin-based Daze Smoke Shop, the Rochester-based Look Ah Hookah, the Commack and Oceanside-based East Coast Psychedelics, the Utica-based Goodfellas Alternative Smoke Shop, the Buffalo and Commack-based Pavilion International, the Plattsburgh-based 20 Below/This and That, the Endicott-based Rolling Fire Glassworks, the Watertown-based Trip on the Wild Side II and the Poughkeepsie-based Giggles.
Federal and state authorities have attempted to outlaw particular chemicals and their analogs to stop the products from being sold, but the efforts continue to fall short as chemists and producers alter the formulas to stay a step ahead of the laws.