State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced Wednesday his office has filed a new lawsuit against Tebb’s Head Shops for the sale of bath salts and synthetic drugs in violation of the state’s labeling laws following an investigation.
Schneiderman sued John Tebbetts III, of Rome, who owns and operates a chain of eight head shops throughout central and northern New York, for violating the state’s labeling laws by selling designer drugs, including commonly known synthetics such as “bath salts” and “synthetic marijuana.”
Tebbetts owns Tebb’s Head Shops, which are located in Herkimer, Syracuse, Oneida, Utica, Cicero and Watertown. The lawsuit was filed in state Supreme Court in Jefferson County.
“Tebb’s Head Shops have brazenly profited from the illegal sale and promotion of dangerous synthetic drugs and have contributed to a dramatic public health crisis in New York state,” said Schneiderman in a news release. “If these head shops are not going to play by the rules, we will use the rules to stop them in their tracks. We will not tolerate the flagrant sale of bath salts and other illegal drugs in our communities.”
The Tebb’s Head Shop at 152 N. Main St. in Herkimer was among the many shops raided by the Drug Enforcement Administration last week, in its first nationwide strike on removing synthetic drugs from the community. During the raid, 91 arrests were made in 109 cities across the United States.
A Tebb’s employee was also arrested in June for possessing and selling bath salts after a village-wide ordinance was enacted by the Herkimer Village Board of Trustees.
The attorney general’s undercover investigation began earlier this year when it was discovered Tebb’s skillfully re-formatted and re-marketed synthetic products by re-labeling “bath salts” to become “glass cleaner,” and even held a storewide naming competition for a new synthetic marijuana product created to avoid the April statewide ban, the release stated.
The announcement comes weeks after Schneiderman filed 12 lawsuits against 16 head shops across the state. To date, two of the lawsuits have resulted in the permanent removal of illegal synthetic drugs from the store shelves and penalties, the release stated.
Federal and state laws and regulations require all consumer commodities, at a minimum, be labeled to describe net contents, identity of the product, the name and place of business of the product’s manufacturer, packer, distributor and directions and warnings relating to customary use. None of the products purchased by the attorney general’s undercover investigators at Tebb’s met these minimum requirements, the release stated.
Although federal and state authorities have attempted to outlaw certain chemicals and their analogs and to remove these dangerous 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 release stated.
Page 2 of 2 - “This sort of unabashed deception is the hallmark of a nefarious industry which calculates to sell mislabeled drugs to an unsuspecting public,” said Schneiderman. “Sellers of these designer drugs are notorious for attempting to avoid criminal prosecution by keeping their products off ‘controlled’ substances lists. In the end, these are dangerous drugs, and you can’t deal drugs over the counter by just calling them something they’re not.”
The lawsuit also charges Tebb’s for the 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.” Tebb’s store signage proclaimed the availability of “Whip Its,” and store clerks gave detailed instructions as to how to inhale this dangerous gas, the release stated.
Between March and April of this year, a senior investigator from the attorney general’s office made eight separate investigative visits to various Tebb’s locations, and purchased synthetic marijuana called “Legal Phunk” and “Care Free Potpourri” together with staff-recommended pipes to smoke the products; pills labeled “Legal Bars” and “Legal Rx” which were described as “legal” Xanax and Oxycontin; bath salts and glass cleaner called “EightBallz” (the street name for an eighth of cocaine or methamphetamine); a hallucinogen called “Salvia” and illegal nitrous oxide together with crackers to open the canisters and a balloon to inhale, the release stated.