Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — New York state’s so-called “creative” approach to eliminating the sale of synthetic drugs by attacking mislabeled packaging got a boost from an Erie County judge this week.
State Supreme Court Juge Frederick Marshall signed a consent order and judgment banning mislabeled or unlabeled products, including synthetic drugs like “bath salts” and synthetic marijuana that have been the subject of a recent statewide sweep of dozens of retailers.
One of the stores investigated is Pavilion International in Buffalo and Commack, where the store’s owner Pamo Nanwandi has also been ordered to pay $22,000 in penalties following an undercover investigation by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
The state has filed 12 lawsuits against 16 head shop locations, including Pavilion International, Schneiderman said.
Within 36 hours of filing the lawsuits, he said his office obtained temporary restraining orders from all 12 judges effectively removing the mislabeled products from the shelves. Monday’s order by Marshall permanently bans the retailer from selling synthetic drugs.
“The proliferation of synthetic drugs has become a crisis in Erie County, New York state and across the country,” Schneiderman said in a statement issued Wednesday. “The judge’s order proves that, by taking a creative approach in using the state’s existing labeling laws, we can get swift results to remove dangerous synthetic drugs from store shelves and hold sellers accountable for breaking the law.”
The state’s crackdown has targeted labeling rather than attempting to ban the actual chemicals in the products, which are often changed to skirt the laws.
“Although federal and state authorities have attempted to outlaw certain chemicals and their analogs and to remove these 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 statement reads.
Under New York state’s labeling law, Schneiderman said, the packaging of consumer commodities must, at a minimum, identify the name and place of business of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor, the common product name, the net quantity of contents, and the net quantity of servings, uses, or applications represented to be present with appropriate directions and warnings for customary use.
At the same time the statewide sweep on labeling has taken place, The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has conducted a nationwide sweep that is targeting the substances themselves, including those sold in this area.
That investigation came to Erie and Niagara counties July 26, when three head shops in the Tonawandas were targeted, and their proprietor, Fawzi Al-Arashi, 34, of Williamsville, was arrested.
While Schneiderman’s office worked alongside the DEA in that sweep, the investigations are separate, state officials said.
Al-Arashi was arrested at his home July 26 and charged with possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance analogue and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of a controlled substance analogue.