WINFIELD - The West Virginia Attorney General's Office is going to court in an attempt to stop a Georgia company from distributing chemical ingredients used to illegally make designer drugs.
Attorney General Darrell McGraw announced Monday that a lawsuit has been filed in Putnam County Circuit Court against Nutragenomics Manufacturing LLC of Alpharetta, Ga.
McGraw told a news conference that Nutragenomics is a "significant distributor" of ingredients used to make drugs known as bath salts and synthetic marijuana, among other things. He said the company markets the products through multiple websites and ships them by mail.
The lawsuit seeks to force the company to identify West Virginia clients who bought its products, along with the chemicals purchased. It also seeks to ban the company from advertising its products as legal and safe in the state and seeks $5,000 penalties for each violation of the state's Consumer Protection Act.
A state law went into effect in April 2011 targeting chemicals meant to produce effects similar to cocaine and marijuana. The drugs have street names such as K2, Spice and bath salts, and McGraw said they have been creeping into schools and are regularly passed around at teen and college parties.
McGraw cited studies that have shown synthetic drugs can cause seizures, hypertension, psychotic episodes, suicidal thoughts and death.
"West Virginians deserve to know the truth about the dangers of these designer chemicals while we work to eliminate them," McGraw said. "The trafficking of dangerous drugs through Internet websites and retail locations is a new problem and it requires a new solution."
Stewart Mones, an attorney representing Nutragenomics, said he hadn't seen the lawsuit and declined comment Monday.
McGraw said this marks the first time his office has gone to court for a civil action involving such a manufacturer, and it marks the second major recent case involving bath salts in West Virginia.
The Harrison County owner of two paraphernalia shops and three of his employees were indicted earlier this month on federal drug conspiracy charges for allegedly selling bath salts and synthetic marijuana.
Federal law bans specific ingredients used in the manufacturing and sale of synthetic drugs, but McGraw and Chad Napier, commander of the Metro Drug Unit in Kanawha and Putnam counties, said manufacturers change the molecular structure of the ingredients in order to skirt the law.
"They know what they're doing," Napier said. With synthetic drugs, "unfortunately every day we see the devastation that it causes with the kids we're dealing with. We have parents calling our office saying, 'My 16-year-old is using this stuff.'"
McGraw said going after one manufacturer might only be making a dent in the trafficking of such drugs.
"We're trying to smoke them out," he said. "There are dozens if not hundreds of these kinds of operations in the country. So this is a start."