West Virginia’s Attorney General Darrell McGraw has filed a lawsuit against a Georgia company in order to stop it from distributing ingredients that are then used to make illegal designer drugs.
The lawsuit was filed against Nutragenomics Manufacturing LLC in Putnam County Circuit Court. Attorney General McGraw argued that Nutragenomics products were frequently used to produce “bath salts” and K2, which are widely viewed as synthetic versions of cocaine and marijuana. The company allegedly markets the ingredients through various websites and then ships them by mail.
In April 2011, a ban on synthetic drugs went into effect in West Virginia, after growing evidence that they were being used frequently at high school and college parties. Studies have suggested that synthetic drugs can do more serious harm to those who take them than the drugs they imitate. Synthetic drugs have been linked to seizures, hypertension, psychotic episodes, suicidal thoughts, and death. Attorney General McGraw’s lawsuit seeks the names of people who purchased Nutragenomics ingredients, to ban the company from advertising its products as legal and safe, and $5,000 penalties for each violation of the state’s Consumer Protection Act.
Federal law already bans certain ingredients that have been used in the manufacturing and sale of synthetic drugs. However, the Attorney General’s Office and Chad Napier, who is in charge of the Metro Drug Unit in Kanawha and Putnam counties, claim that companies like Nutragenomics change the molecular structure of the ingredients just enough in order to get around the law.
This is the first time the Attorney General’s Office has gone to court for a civil action involving a chemical manufacturer like Nutragenomics. This is also the second major recent case in West Virginia that involved bath salts. An owner of two paraphernalia shops in Harrison County was indicted, along with three of his employees, on federal drug conspiracy charges for selling bath salts and synthetic marijuana. Given the Attorney General’s commitment to this issue, the indictments and lawsuits will only grow in the future.
We at the Wolfe Law Firm understand the importance of stopping synthetic drug use, especially since the effects can be so much more disturbing than those of natural drugs. However, with investigations such as these, where the Attorney General attempts to “smoke out” all manufacturers and users, there is a concern about overreach. Just because someone orders the ingredients does not mean they know what the ingredients are used for and intended them for that purpose. Even if they did order the ingredients to make synthetic drugs, each person is still entitled to due process and rights under the Constitution. Usually that means that state officials must have a “reasonable suspicion” of criminal behavior before stopping and questioning them. To arrest a suspect, state officials must at least have “probable cause,” and must have an actual warrant to search someone’s house or documents. Too often, state police officers violate these basic requirements, which is typically when suspects hire West Virginia criminal defense attorneys to defend them. Stopping dangerous drug use is important, but protecting people’s Constitutional rights is fundamental.