May 29

Herbal Incense Lawsuit Claims Ohio Headshop Business is “Deceptive”

An Ohio headshop called Zig Stag is the focus of a state herbal incense lawsuit.

An Ohio headshop called Zig Stag is the focus of a state herbal incense lawsuit.

Ohio law enforcement officials and state officials have found a new way to legally challenge the sale of herbal incense and similar synthetic smoking blends: by suing the owner of the business for unfair legal practices. As the manufacturers and retail sellers of herbal incense have adjusted their offerings to comply with state laws and federal bans on certain chemicals, lawmakers and law enforcement have despaired of any concrete way to slow the expansion of herbal incense. Now, unable to prosecute a local business because it complies with the law, the state has filed a civil lawsuit.

Yesterday, May 28th, 2013, the Ohio state Attorney General, Mike DeWine, filed a lawsuit against the owners/operators of a smoke shop for selling herbal incense. The kicker is that this is not his first lawsuit; DeWine has filed similar suits against seven other businesses in an effort to curtail herbal incense sales. 

According to coverage in the Pike County Daily, it sounds like the Consumer Protection Act is the cornerstone of the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants connected to Zig Stag, 20 East Market Street, Tiffin, engaged in unfair, deceptive, and unconscionable acts by selling synthetic drugs as legal products…“Synthetic drugs are deadly, illegal, and have no place in Ohio’s businesses,” said Attorney General DeWine. “That’s why we are continuing to go after those selling these drugs with the full force of this office.”

Although the exact strategy is not laid out in the source article, it is likely that the basis of the claims of deceptive business practices is the same as New York’s fraud/mislabeling’s source: the labeling of herbal incense as not for human consumption to avoid the legal implications of what customers are doing with it after leaving the shop.

The State of Ohio has had Zig Stag in their crosshairs for some time, it seems, and the lawsuit is a third attempt following two failed ones.

A nuisance abatement was also filed in an effort to close the business for one year…In February, authorities with the Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) assisted Seneca County’s METRICH Drug Task Force and Ohio Department of Taxation in serving a search warrant at the business. Investigators found evidence of the sale of synthetic cannabinoids, also known as synthetic marijuana or herbal incense. The products were being sold under names such as “Shpark in the Dark” and “Atomic.”

Instead of acknowledging that herbal incense clearly has a market of adult customers and therefore that prohibition of the product will not work, Ohio officials seem happy to bury their heads in the sand and force the products onto the black market.


Source: Pike County Daily