ALBANY, N.Y. (CN) – State prosecutors want an Albany head shop – and 11 other head shops across the state – permanently barred from selling dangerous, mislabeled products that mimic the highs of illegal drugs.
Attorney General Eric Schneidermann sued Dan Heins dba Shining Star Enterprises, in Albany County Supreme Court.
Twelve such lawsuits were filed simultaneously, from Long Island to Buffalo, against head shops that sell inadequately labeled designer drugs – synthetic versions of illegal drugs – the attorney general’s office said.
The state claims that Heins “has repeatedly and persistently” violated state labeling laws by selling products that do not list the name and address of the manufacturer or distributor, the package weight, the ingredients, directions for use, and warnings.
“Consumers cannot make informed decisions about the safety of the products they are purchasing without knowing the contents of the products and how they are intended to be used,” the complaint states. “Some of these products may cause serious health effects such as agitation, tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), hallucinations, seizures, extreme paranoia, panic, vomiting, mood swings, intense cravings to re-dose, suicidal or homicidal thoughts, or even death.”
The state sued under state executive law that authorizes action “when any person or entity has engaged in repeated fraudulent or illegal acts or has otherwise engaged in persistent fraud or illegality in the conduct of its business”.
Proliferation of the drugs, which include bath salts, leaf salvia, kratom and synthetic marijuana, has become a national public health crisis, the attorney general said in a statement.
Found at head shops, which specialize in drug paraphernalia, the designer drugs are packaged with bright graphics under innocuous names such “MJ Blueberry Aromatic Potpourri” and “Cali Crunch” to give the impression they are harmless. But the drugs have been tied to several serious injuries and the death of a film student in New York City who jumped off a balcony after smoking salvia, a hallucinogenic plant, according to the attorney general’s statement.
State and federal efforts to combat the drugs by outlawing certain chemicals have fallen short, as producers alter formulas to stay ahead of legislation.
Schneiderman’s office conducted undercover investigations to buy sample products, then sued under labeling provisions found in education, agriculture and markets and general business laws.
The complaint against Heins details an undercover visit in May “that revealed extensive evidence that Shining Star offers for sale and sells mislabeled and misbranded designer drugs and nitrous oxide to the public.”
The product inventory included leaf salvia, “Lucky Kratom” in liquid and capsule form, and Glide 150. It describes salvia as an herb in the mint family native to Mexico, and kratom as coming from a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia.
Salvia produces hallucinogenic effects, while kratom is an addictive psychostimulant, according to the complaint.
The Glide 150 found in the store had “no indication as to what type of substance was inside.” But the complaint says Heins told the undercover investigator that Flight 300, a stronger version of the product, is “like 300 minutes of feeling really really really really really really really really really really really really really good … and then it just stops like *that* (snapping fingers).”
Shining Star also sold “cream” chargers of nitrous oxide – laughing gas – which has analgesic and euphoric effects when inhaled. According to the complaint, “Nitrous chargers can be used to make whip cream, but are frequently misused by people to get high.”
Retail sale of nitrous oxide is prohibited under state health law.
Prosecutors say Heins’ sale of designer drugs violated state agriculture and markets law by putting incomplete labels on “commodities,” which include nonprescription drugs, and violated education law by misbranding “drugs,” which are “articles (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or animals.”
The sales also constituted “deceptive acts and practices” under general business law, according to the complaint.
Schneiderman wants Heins permanently enjoined from selling the designer drugs, an accounting of all the inventory sold or offered between Jan. 1 and July 10, by product name and manufacturer/distributor, descriptions of the products, their retail price, and the number of units sold.
Schneiderman said he can seek a civil penalty of $5,000 for each “deceptive act” committed by Heins.