A Long Island head shop has been ordered to stop selling products determined by the state to be “misbranded designer drugs” and fined $52,000, according to the state attorney general’s office.
Eric T. Schneiderman’s office said Wednesday that officials secured a court judgment ordering East Coast Psychedelics, in Commack and Oceanside, to pull drug products from its shelves that don’t comply with state labeling laws. The affected products include nitrous oxide, which is illegal to sell in New York, and packages of the botanical substance kratom that are not properly labeled.
The judgment also includes a $52,000 fine for previous sales of mislabeled drugs. State law requires that consumer products include the name and address of the manufacturer, as well as ingredients and other warnings, and officials said the store had been selling mislabeled and improperly labeled products.
“This court ruling is another victory for our innovative efforts to remove these and other drugs from stores across the state,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “We will continue to aggressively take action in order to protect our communities against this scourge plaguing communities in New York.”
State officials said the case is part of a wider crackdown on “designer drugs,” unapproved substances designed to mimic the effects of illegal drugs while still technically being legal. The state considers synthetic marijuana, sold under labels such as “herbal bud,” “potpourri” and “incense,” as well as kratom, to be under that category.
Officials said Wednesday they had issued permanent injunctions barring 23 stores from selling products through labeling laws violations.
Tom Hillgardner, a Jamaica, Queens-based attorney representing East Coast Psychedelics and its owner, George Moss, said the judgment against the store is little more than symbolic.
“The injunction was signed, he got his house in order,” Hillgardner said.
Hillgardner acknowledged that the store did sell mislabeled kratom and sold nitrous oxide when the case was brought in July 2012. Moss had been unaware of the laws regarding those products but has since removed them from shelves and currently sells only properly labeled kratom from a U.S.-based distributor, which is not yet illegal, Hillgardner said.
Investigators had purchased kratom from the store in pill and tea form and found products without proper labeling during an initial investigation, including some kratom products labeled “not for human consumption.” In November 2013, a Suffolk County judge found the company violated state law and it was banned from selling misbranded products.
Hillgardner said the sale of kratom is a point of contention among advocates and the government, and disputes the characterization of kratom as a designer drug. The substance comes from a plant in the coffee family and is grown in Southeast Asia. It is currently legal, though federal officials are trying to ban it.
Hillgardner said the drug has similar qualities to coffee and can help people going through opiate withdrawal.
However, state officials said kratom has opiate-like effects and can cause decreased breathing, aggression, sleeplessness, hallucinations and severe withdrawal symptoms.
The DEA considers it a “substance of concern,” according to an Aug. 30 news release. Federal officials are issuing a two-year ban, effective at the end of September, on the substance and classifying it as a Schedule I substance, on the same level as heroin and LSD.
Hillgardner said his client intends to comply with the law and will continue to sell kratom within the bounds of labeling regulations.