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State AG sues Watertown store owner over alleged bath salt sales

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The state attorney general has filed suit against the owner of eight head shops across the state, including one in Watertown, claiming the businesses are selling bath salts and other synthetic drugs in violation of the state’s labeling laws.

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced Wednesday he has filed suit in state Supreme Court against John E. Tebbetts III, Rome, owner of Tebb’s Headshop, 144 Eastern Blvd. The business was raided July 25 by federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents as part of a statewide sweep related to the alleged sale of synthetic drugs. No arrests resulted from the raid, although a store employee was cited with marijuana possession.

The day before the raid, a Watertown man, Daniel H. Avery, allegedly used a bat to shatter Tebb’s front door window and break a display case and glass countertop and some merchandise inside, upset that his son had to be hospitalized after consuming bath salts he claimed were purchased at Tebb’s.

Mr. Schneiderman said in a prepared statement that an undercover investigation conducted earlier this year allegedly revealed that Tebb’s relabeled bath salts as “glass cleaner” and held a storewide competition to name a new synthetic marijuana product created to avoid a statewide ban on those type of items imposed in April.

“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,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “If these head shops are not going to play by the rules, we will use the rules to stop them in their tracks.”

According to an affidavit a senior investigator with the attorney general’s office filed with the lawsuit, the investigator was able to purchase synthetic marijuana at the Watertown store and was given tips by a clerk on how to use it, despite there being no ingredients, manufacturer, instructions or warnings on the product except, “Not for human consumption.” The lawsuit also claims Tebb’s was selling other mislabeled products, as well as canisters of nitrous oxide, the sale of which to the public is banned under state Public Health Law.

The lawsuit seeks to have a judge order Tebb’s to stop selling allegedly mislabeled products, as well as impose fines. In addition to Watertown, Tebb’s shops are in Syracuse, Oneida, Utica, Cicero and Herkimer.

The attorney general previously had filed lawsuits against 16 head shops across the state, including Trip on the Wild Side, 671 Mill St., which has been ordered temporarily to stop selling any mislabeled products.

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