SARANAC LAKE — The Grateful Toad has to pay $12,000 in fines for violating state labeling laws in connection with Kratom sales.
The head shop's owner said Thursday that he thinks the penalty is misdirected.
Franklin County Judge John Ellis signed a consent order and judgment “demanding mislabeled or unlabeled products, including the botanical drug Kratom, to be permanently removed from the store shelves,” State Attorney General A.G. Schneiderman's office said in a news release.
The product was already removed from the head shop soon after owner Jason Ashley was notified of a restraining order sought by the attorney general’s office on Jan. 12.
Ashley was advised in January by the AG’s Office in Plattsburgh that the legal injunction was due to selling products without proper labeling.
On Thursday, he told the Press-Republican that he accepted the penalty and plans to move forward.
“I truthfully do not know what the penalty is for; it says labeling, but I never labeled anything,” he said.
“With the labeling of products, I just always assumed if there was something wrong Ag and Markets would step in and say fix it or get fined. I had no clue.
"The investigator was standing right there and could have just said that, and it (Kratom products) would have disappeared in the garbage. I would not have batted an eye,” Ashley said.
Officials from Schneiderman’s offices in Plattsburgh and Watertown conducted the sting investigation at the Grateful Toad late last fall.
“Under New York State’s Labeling Law, 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,” the AG said in the news release.
“The packaging indicated only that Kratom should not be used by nursing or pregnant women.”
Ashley said their company, with numerous head shops around the country, uses some 30 vendors.
“The only thing I do not use a vendor for is my glass (pipes), because that is family (crafted).
"This should have been a labeling issue with the original company,” Ashley said.
A copy of the consent order obtained by the Press-Republican from the AG’s Office in Albany shows Ashley was also required to “prepare an accounting of all commodities he sold, or offered for sale, from July 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015,” including product names and retail price.
On Feb. 1, Ellis signed an order permanently banning the Grateful Toad from selling mislabeled or unlabeled products, including Kratom.
Kratom, a plant native to Southeast Asia, is not illegal to sell in New York. A relative of the coffee plant, the leaves are traditionally used in Thailand to allay fatigue and as pain medicine.
It is prepared as a powder, tea or as oil and sometimes used to combat symptoms of opioid withdrawal.
The use and sale of Kratom has become controversial around the United States.
As a plant-derived medicine, it is considered by some users to be an "herbal supplement."
But Schneiderman considers the powders, teas and capsules derived from Kratom “designer drugs,” a definition more broadly used to identify chemicals crafted in a lab to mimic other substances, such as synthetic cannabis, called “spice,” which is illegal in New York state.
Schneiderman said “proliferation of illegal designer drugs is a national health crisis that is hurting New York families and communities, and my office has successfully stopped more than 20 head shops across our state from selling these dangerous drugs.”
The Food and Drug Administration has engaged U.S. Marshal Service to seize imported herbal supplements that contain Kratom, listing it as a drug of concern.
An "Import Alert" issued by the FDA last month lists a large number of firms subject to product detention “without physical examination.”
Many of the companies are based in the United States, with others in British Columbia, Canada and in Indonesia and Malaysia.
After one recent seizure in Illinois, the FDA filed a federal complaint alleging, among other things, “that Kratom is a new dietary ingredient for which there is inadequate information to provide reasonable assurance that it does not present a significant or unreasonable risk of illness or injury; therefore, dietary supplements containing Kratom are adulterated under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.”
The complaint says the herbal products are “adulterated” because Kratom is “a new dietary ingredient for which a required pre-market notification has not been submitted.”
FDA considers Kratom to be “a botanical substance that could pose a risk to public health and have the potential for abuse.”
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