Updated 07/10/2012 06:15 PM
State AG Investigation Targets Head Shops
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New York's Attorney General's Office is one of the first in the country to go after head shops that sell synthetic drugs by using the state’s labeling laws.
The AG's office has filed 12 lawsuits against 16 head shops across the state including Look Ah Hookah, for mislabeling or not labeling synthetic drugs like salvia, spice, bath salts, mushrooms, potpourri and others.
Eric Schneiderman said in some cases the synthetic and designer drugs are worse than street drugs. The Attorney General pointed to a number of cases across the state where people who've used the drugs have become extremely violent and suicidal.
Schneiderman said his office has secured temporary restraining orders to stop the stores from selling the products
"Our investigators going undercover have found many new York head shops have been trying to violate the law by employing deceptive business practices that clearly violate our education law, our agriculture and markets law, and our consumer protection laws,” Schneiderman said. “It is illegal in New York to misinform consumers. It is illegal to mislabel products or to fail to label products and then to promote them for unapproved human consumption."
The state and federal government have passed numerous measures to outlaw the harmful products in the synthetic drugs but Schneiderman says the laws are difficult for officers to enforce because they require product testing.
He said attacking the drug problem with consumer laws means local governments and consumer protection agencies can all play a role.
"These are illegal sales. We don’t have to worry about the detail of what the substance is. That’s the power of this approach."
While she has talked with YNN in the past, the owner of Look ah Hookah did not want to comment on the lawsuits.
If the state wins the civil suits in court, it’s hoping hefty fines will be enough incentive for head shops to stop selling the mislabeled, synthetic drugs.
Local emergency department doctors say they've seen a rise in bath salt usage in the last six months.
Dr. Bryan Gargano, a doctor at Rochester General Hospital, estimates he's seeing at least two to three patients a day coming in displaying side effects of taking bath salts.
"We've seen a lot of patients acutely psychotic, just completely unaware of what they're doing. Hallucinating, requiring being admitted to the hospital. Requiring sedation, restraint, hurting themselves, hurting other people and then having no recollection of it later. And sometimes it takes days even to get better from using it," Gargano said.
Gargano says another challenge of synthetic drugs is not knowing what they'll do
to a person and doctors have no good way of testing for them or treating them as well.