New York officials are continuing crackdowns on synthetic drugs with new health department regulations issued Tuesday aimed at sellers, while lawsuits proceed against a dozen shops accused of falsely labeling substances that are used as stimulants or hallucinogens.
The regulations expand the state list of prohibited drugs and chemicals to include phenethylamines, which mimic cocaine and amphetamines and are commonly marketed as “bath salts.” In March, health officials banned “synthetic marijuana” that was being sold in convenience stores and smoke shops, and last year prohibited synthetic cathinones, a component of many bath salts.
The new regulations expose store owners or employees to criminal penalties up to a $250 fine and 15 days in jail for a first offense, in addition to possible civil fines.
“The actions we are announcing today attack the problem by helping our law enforcement officers enforce the rules, expanding the list of banned substances used to manufacture bath salts, and imposing tougher penalties,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday while visiting Buffalo. Acknowledging federal law already bans manufacture and sale of many of the same substances, the state regulations will enable local police to pursue sellers under state law and refer cases to local prosecutors, he said.
New York Attorney General Schneiderman has been targeting head shops since January for selling unlabeled or mislabeled synthetic drugs, filing 13 suits against 24 stores. His lawyers have obtained temporary restraining orders against all of them to stop peddling various products, with permanent court orders issued in suits in Rochester and Long Island.
“Our office’s swift and proven approach, which brought an innovative strategy to an intractable problem, coupled with other efforts at the state and federal levels, will continue to remove these dangerous and illegal products from the shelves,” Schneiderman said Tuesday.
According to state health officials, poison control centers nationally have received over 10,000 calls in the past year and a half related to the synthetic drugs. The New York State Poison Control Center in 2010 reported 20 calls concerning synthetic marijuana, 291 last year and 321 through the first six months of 2012.
Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah on in March banned synthetic marijuana that was sold in stores, initially listing 10 specific ingredients and any other “synthetic chemical compound that is a cannabinoid receptor agonist.” An appendix to the order listed 23 brand names including “Skunk” and “Space Truckin.”
Two weeks earlier, authorities at Fort Drum in northern New York notified four businesses they would be added to the list of off-limits stores to its soldiers if they didn’t stop selling drug paraphernalia and variations of synthetic cannabis. Spokeswoman Julie Cupernall said synthetic drug use by service members has been illegal for a long time.
Federal raids nationwide two weeks ago included 14 sellers of synthetic drugs across New York. A new federal law in July banned more than two dozen substances use to make bath salts.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.