News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 16, 2016
New York City Press Office / 212-416-8060
Albany Press Office / 518-776-2427
A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN SECURES RESTRAINING ORDER AND ANNOUNCES LAWSUIT AGAINST NEW YORK BASED COMPANY FOR ALLEGEDLY SELLING K2 ONLINE
Court Issues Temporary Restraining Order Prohibiting Sales By New York Based LegalHerbalBud.com, Online Store That Allegedly Sold And Promoted Mislabeled Synthetic Marijuana To Retail And Wholesale Buyers
A.G.'s Undercover Agents Purchased Designer Drugs From An Online Seller Of Synthetic Marijuana For Delivery To East Harlem, According To Lawsuit
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office has filed a lawsuit against the online company Legalherbalbud.com, operated by Niaz Khan, Phillip Pulcca, Aida Guach and Lisanka Sanchez for allegedly selling hallucinogenic drugs and street drug alternatives known as “synthetic marijuana” or K2. Synthetic marijuana, a subcategory of designer drugs, causes auditory and visual hallucinations, sedation, euphoria, and other street drug effects. It can also lead to addiction, psychosis, acute arrhythmia, asphyxiation and in some cases, even death.
“Illegal designer drugs like K2 are wreaking havoc on our streets and damaging quality of life in communities across New York State,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “The uptick in synthetic marijuana consumption and dramatic rise in Emergency Room visits last month in New York City is a stark reminder that the scourge of K2 continues to be a serious problem. My office will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute businesses and individuals who sell designer drugs.”
“The availability of untested synthetic drugs has become an undeniable safety concern for the residents of New York City,” said New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “The City Council has passed legislation aimed at getting K2 and similar drugs off local shelves, but the rise in online vendors has created a renewed need for city and state officials to join together in targeting those responsible for peddling such dangerous drugs to our citizens. I commend Attorney General Schneiderman for leading the effort to put an end to this widespread problem, and look forward to continued work on addressing this issue.”
State Senator Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) said, “Synthetic marijuana poses an incredible health risk to all New Yorkers as our state has struggled to keep ahead of the chemists' curve. Last year, I released a report detailing the dangers that online drug dealers present to our communities, as they continue to pump K2 into our neighborhoods. We must do all that we can to keep this poison off our streets and out of our neighborhoods, whether that is to pursue legal action, or adopt my analog legislation. I want to thank Attorney General Schneiderman for taking these steps toward shutting down this designer drug-dealer. I remain committed to working to pass my bill in both houses of the legislature, to ensure that our law enforcement receives the support it needs to protect our residents.”
As alleged in the petition, filed in Supreme Court in New York County, an undercover investigation revealed that Legalherbalbud.com was violating state labeling laws by selling and promoting dangerous and illegal drugs in New York by using its online store to sell synthetic marijuana to consumers in New York.
The Attorney General’s investigation found that Legalherbalbud.com branded dangerous products with names and images to attract adolescents such as “Scooby Snax,” “Green Giant,” and “The Incredible Hulk.” It also promoted and marketed these products as “legal highs” on its Facebook page. Legalherbalbud.com advertised its brands of synthetic marijuana as “herbal incense,” “potpourri,” and “not for human consumption,” while simultaneously advertising its products as legal intoxicants fit for human consumption. As detailed in the lawsuit, most products had practically no label information and lacked comprehensive ingredient lists, warnings, and directions for use, as required by law. Without ingredient disclosure, adequate usage or warning information, the lawsuit alleges that the labels are deceptive and that the drugs are dangerous for consumers. The Attorney General’s office purchased 123 packets misbranded and mislabeled packets of synthetic marijuana from the seller since January.
The lawsuit seeks an accounting of all commodities sold or offered for sale by Legalherbalbud.com, including the name of each product, the manufacturer and distributor of each product, a description of each product, the wholesale and retail prices of each product, the number of units sold, and a listing of the customers it sold its products to. Federal and state laws and regulations require that all consumer commodities, at a minimum, be labeled to describe net contents, identity of the product, and the name and place of business of the product’s manufacturer, packer, and distributor. Drugs of any kind must be further labeled with particularized directions for use and comprehensive, intelligible warning information.
In response to the Attorney General's lawsuit, a New York County Supreme judge issued a temporary restraining order, shutting down sales until the court can make a further determination.
Synthetic marijuana has psychoactive effects similar to those of more commonly known street drugs, but is typically packaged with innocuous labels and graphics to give the misleading impression that they are harmless. Synthetic marijuana has contributed to a public health crisis in New York State and across the nation, and attempts to stop their spread by outlawing specific chemicals have been of limited success.
This lawsuit is part of an ongoing effort by Attorney General Schneiderman’s office to stop the sale of designer drugs, including synthetic marijuana. This initiative, which began in 2012, has successfully removed street drug alternatives and designer drugs from the shelves of numerous head shops and online sellers across New York State. The Attorney General’s office has filed dozens of lawsuits against head shops and online merchants who sold designer drugs, which resulted in judges across the state issuing permanent injunctions barring 23 stores from selling these products. These successful court rulings came after the office proved that the products were illegal because their contents were not properly labeled, thus violating state and federal laws.
Between January and July of this year, senior investigators from the Attorney General’s Office made multiple buys from Legalherbalbud.com. Operating exclusively by way of the internet, the agents purchased a variety of well-known synthetic marijuana brands including: AK47; Black Lion, California Chronic; Caution, Diablo; Green Giant; iBlown; Joker; Kisha Cole; Psycho; Red Eye Jack; Red Giant; Scooby Snax; Smacked, and the Incredible Hulk. The synthetic marijuana was shipped to a location in East Harlem.
Although federal and state authorities have outlawed certain chemicals that are used in designer drugs, including synthetic marijuana, and their analogs, in order to remove these items from commerce, these efforts continue to fall short as the chemists and producers providing the products to online merchants, bodegas and head shops simply alter formulas and formats to stay ahead of legislation and the public's notice.
The Attorney General’s office has obtained an affidavit from a medical expert supporting his efforts to combat these drugs. Metropolitan Hospital Center’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Pellicone told the Attorney General’s office that patients who have taken these street drug-alternatives are frequently violent and present a definite danger to the public and first responders who care for them. The Attorney General thanks Dr. Pellicone and Blanche Greenfield, Chief Employment Counsel with the NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation for their assistance in support of this lawsuit.
In October of 2015, the Attorney General’s office sued two businesses in Erie and Rockland County for allegedly selling and shipping synthetic marijuana and other designer drugs. It was alleged that Surrealistic Sensations, which is based in Lackawanna in Erie County, sold designer drugs online to consumers in the Bronx and elsewhere. Another retailer, Liquid Shop, promoted and sold designer drugs at a storefront located in Nyack. In March of 2016, the office won a permanent injunction against Surrealistic Sensations. Further information about previous cases is available here.
The investigation was conducted by Attorney General Investigators Chad Shelmidine, Cynthia Kane, and Supervising Investigator Deputy Chief Jonathan Woods.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Jason M. Clark of the Attorney General’s Harlem Regional Office, with the assistance of Volunteer Assistant Attorney General Daniel Palmisano, under the supervision of Assistant Attorneys General In Charge Roberto Lebron (Harlem Regional Office), Deanna Nelson (Watertown Regional Office), and Martin Mack, Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs.