The New York State Police Community Narcotics Enforcement Team, with the assistance of the New York National Guard Counter Drug Unit, Port Jervis Police Department, Auburn Police Department, DeWitt Police Department, Cayuga County Sheriff’s Office, and the NYS Department of Health, executed a series of search warrants across upstate New York as part of an ongoing investigation into the sale of banned substances. The focus of the searches related to products sold in commercial establishments as “Synthetic Marihuana.”
Synthetic cannabinoids, also known as Synthetic Marijuana, are mixtures of vegetative substances infused with chemicals intended to mimic the effects of marijuana. The risks associated with the use of synthetic cannabinoids and related substances cannot be overstated. Health warnings have been issued by public health authorities and poison control centers describing the adverse health effects associated with these substances. The effects include agitation, extreme nervousness, nausea, vomiting, tachycardia, elevated blood pressure, seizures and hallucinations.
On August 7, 2012, The Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health, Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., proposed, and the Public Health and Health Planning Council amended the State Sanitary Code to include synthetic drugs. This amendment made it a violation to possess, manufacture, distribute, sell or offer to sell these substances.
The New York State Police Community Narcotics Enforcement Team (CNET) began an investigation into the continued sale of the banned substances in August of 2012. The ongoing investigation identified a number of head shops, bodegas and smoke shops that continued to sell the products after the NYS Department of Health made notification of the newly enacted legislation banning the sale of the those substances.
During the operation, nine commercial establishments were the subject of searches by State Police and local law enforcement agency members. Those locations are:
Jamaica Junction – 15 Front Street, Port Jervis, NY
Dewey Avenue Smoke Shop – 1405 Dewey Avenue, Rochester, NY
Elab Smokers Boutique - 719 Monroe Avenue, Rochester, NY
Elab Smokers Boutique – 4373 Lake Avenue, Rochester, NY
Illusions Smoke Shop – 2854 Dewey Avenue, Greece, NY
Dazed and Confused Tobacco – 1308 Buffalo Road, Gates, NY
Alchemy Gift Shop – 6910 Buffalo Road, Niagara Falls, NY
Zonen Ltd. – 6697 Old Collamer Road, East Syracuse, NY
Hightops Sneakers & Smoking Accessory – 193 State Street, Auburn, NY
The execution of the search warrants resulted in the recovery of more than 11,000 packages believed to contain synthetic cannabinoids, $16,000 in cash, 200 packages of suspected bath salts, and other items and records relating to the sale of the banned substances. The seized drugs are valued at over $150,000. The seized items will be processed and tested to determine their chemical content. Previous purchases of synthetic marihuana products from these locations have already been tested and were positively identified as banned substances under the law.
During the course of the operations the following subject were arrested for violation of section 229 of the N.Y.S. Public Health Law. They were all issued appearance tickets returnable in various local courts on a later date:
Brooklyn Boise, 43, 78 Maida Dr., Spencerport, NY
Russell P. Landon, 31, 2 Kintz St., Rochester, N.Y.
Jasen M. Kendrot, 32, 612 Elmgrove Rd., Rochester, N.Y.
Clyde Beach, 56, 2C Padgett Ln., Cuddebackville, N.Y.
Due to the significant amount of product seized at some of the locations, the Drug Enforcement Administration may seek federal prosecution.
New York State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico said, “The fact that some retail establishments continue to sell these illicit drugs over the counter is disconcerting and won’t be tolerated. These drugs being sold over the counter gives the citizenry the false impression they are not dangerous drugs, while the fact is, there have been very serious health and public safety issues related to these synthetic drugs. The State Police will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure these drugs remain off the shelves of retail establishments.”
“Bath salts and synthetic marijuana present a real and immediate threat to the health and safety of our young adults and the public at large,” said State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H. “I applaud the efforts of the New York State Police, the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement and local law enforcement to rid our communities of these harmful substances.”
Orange County District Attorney Frank Phillips said, “This investigation points out the need for stronger penalties for the sale and distribution of these substances.”
City of Port Jervis PD Chief William J. Worden said, “The illicit sale and use of substances like synthetic marijuana has a dangerous impact on the health and well-being of a community and is of vital concern to law enforcement. Synthetic marijuana is popular among teens and has been known to cause severe medical related side effects and even death. Clearly, this toxic drug is dangerous and putting our young adults at risk. Coordinated enforcement efforts and teamwork from all levels of New York State law enforcement is essential to effectively battle the negative effects that synthetic marijuana and other illicit substances contribute to the quality of life and well being of our communities.”
Niagara County District Attorney Michael J. Violante said, “I am happy to learn of law enforcement's proactive efforts to rid our communities of synthetic drugs such as synthetic marihuana and bath salts. The New York State Police and local law enforcement need the help of the public as well. If you see these synthetic drug products in your corner stores, call the police. Let's shut down these stores that sell dangerous drugs to our children."