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Judge orders Watertown shop to stop selling allegedly mislabeled products

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A state Supreme Court judge Thursday ordered a Watertown business to temporarily stop selling allegedly mislabeled products that the state attorney general claims are synthetic drugs.

Judge James P. McClusky issued a temporary restraining order against Tebb’s Headshop, 144 Eastern Blvd., which was sued Wednesday by Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman for allegedly selling products that are in violation of the state’s product labeling laws.

The attorney general’s actions are part of a statewide crackdown on the sale of products that mimic the intoxicating effect of controlled substances, but are marketed as being for other uses, such as glass cleaner. The attorney general claims Tebb’s, which is part of an eight-store chain owned by John E. Tebbets III, Rome, has reformatted and remarketed “bath salts” as glass cleaner. Bath salts have been known to cause consumers to exhibit paranoia and display violent tendencies, including extraordinary strength and immunity to pain.

The lawsuit also seeks to stop the sale of canisters of nitrous oxide, of which sales to the public are banned under state Public Health Law. If inhaled, the contents can cause intoxication and have been linked to several deaths by asphyxiation, as well as other adverse health effects.

In issuing a restraining order, Judge McClusky stated that the attorney general had demonstrated that sales of mislabeled products “have caused and will continue to cause immediate and irreparable injury to members of the public” unless Tebb’s stops selling the items pending a “show cause” hearing scheduled for Aug. 23. At the hearing, Tebb’s will be given the opportunity to argue why it should be allowed to continue to sell the disputed products. Judge McClusky also ordered the business to stop selling nitrous oxide without first obtaining an exemption from the state Department of Health.

The judge further ordered Tebb’s to provide an accounting of all commodities its has sold or offered for sale from Jan. 1 to Wednesday, the name of the product, the manufacturer or distributor, a description of the product, its retail price and the number of units sold.

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

All of the cases statewide are being prosecuted by Deanna R. Nelson, assistant attorney general in charge of the Watertown regional office, and Gary S. Brown, assistant attorney general in charge of the Westchester office, along with Judith C. Malkin, assistant attorney general in the Syracuse office, under the supervision of Martin J. Mack, executive attorney general for regional offices.

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