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Store owner disputes Attorney General’s charges

Carla Brotherton behind the counter of her ice cream parlor 20 Below.

Carla Brotherton behind the counter of her ice cream parlor 20 Below. Photo by Stephen Bartlett.

PLATTSBURGH — Carla Brotherton opened This and That in Plattsburgh 26 years ago.

It is a smoke shop and a legitimate business, she said, standing behind the counter as customers walked through the store.

Yet the New York State Attorney General’s office filed lawsuits against it, and the neighboring ice cream parlor she owns called 20 Below. The lawsuit claims the businesses violated the state’s labeling laws by selling designer drugs.

“It is ridiculous,” Brotherton said.

She doesn’t know what the lawsuit will do to her business, called some of the allegations against her businesses lies, showed proof of other local business selling the same items yet not being targeted and called for more personal responsibility.

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman filed 12 lawsuits across the state against 16 businesses, which he referred to as “head shops,” for violating the state’s labeling laws by selling designer drugs, including commonly known synthetics such as bath salts and synthetic marijuana.

He said an undercover investigation revealed employees of This and That and 20 Below were selling the synthetic drugs.

“The proliferation of illegal synthetic drugs has become a national crisis,” Schneiderman said. “We discovered that head shop employees were giving tutorials on how to use dangerous intoxicants.”

The undercover video investigation discovered some head shops were labeling the products with misleading names and marketing them as incense, butterfly attractant, glass cleaner, potpourris, sachets and dietary supplements. Some products had no label and most lacked comprehensive ingredient listings.

Federal and state laws and regulations require that all consumer commodities, at a minimum, be labeled to describe net contents, identity of the product, and the name and place of business of the product’s manufacturer, packer, and distributor.

The lawsuits further pursue retailers for illegal sales of nitrous oxide to the public, a specific violation of the State Public Health Law. Nitrous oxide, commonly known as “Whip Its,” has been linked to several deaths by asphyxiation and other adverse health effects.

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