Numerous stores in the Glens Falls region removed synthetic marijuana from their shelves Friday as state officials began enforcing a ban on the products.
Glens Falls Police accompanied the Health Department agents as they visited stores in Glens Falls on Friday morning to formally notify them. Stores in Hudson Falls and Queensbury were also visited and seemed to be complying with the new ban.
Three stores in Glens Falls had been selling it, but only two — Smoke ‘N Save on Park Street and Akram’s Variety Store on South Street — had any in stock Friday. The Getty Mart on Ridge Street discontinued selling it earlier in the week.
Glens Falls Police Chief Will Valenza said the stores turned over their inventory to police for safe disposal. The products can only be disposed of according to state Department of Environmental Conservation regulations under the ban imposed Thursday by the state.
Valenza said none of the store clerks questioned the directive.
“Everyone was cooperative. We advised them we will be doing periodic compliance checks,” Valenza said.
As complaints about the health problems and criminal activity being spurred by herbal incense products designed to look like marijuana and to give users a high grew in recent weeks, state officials reacted Thursday with an emergency ban of the substances.
The products, marketed under names like Posh, Spice, Wicked XXX and K2, consist of green vegetative material coated with chemicals that are supposed to give users a high.
Later Friday, Warren County sheriff’s Lt. Steve Stockdale said the Health Department had asked the Sheriff’s Office for a patrol officer escort to stores in the county outside Glens Falls to notify them of the state order as well.
One convenience store in Queensbury that had a large selection as of Thursday morning was the Star Fuel store on Route 9, but by Friday afternoon it no longer had any on display.
Stockdale said he believed the state needs to go further than a civil ban and criminalize the substances.
“It doesn’t give law enforcement any power to enforce it,” he said of the Department of Health ban.
Those who violate the ban can be sued by the state Attorney General’s Office and face unspecified fines.
It was unclear late Friday whether any enforcement had occurred in other local counties.
Hudson Falls Police Sgt. John Kibling said three stores in the village — Smoke ‘N Save, Main St. Deli and Up in Smoke — were visited Friday morning by the Department of Health, and all three had removed their herbal incense by the afternoon.
Fort Edward Police Sgt. Justin Derway said Friday the Washington County Attorney’s Office informed the Police Department that the Department of Health will begin enforcement in the county in the coming days.
A bill is pending in the state Senate that would criminalize synthetic marijuana. Warren County and the village of Fort Edward have also begun the process to make it illegal to possess or sell the product in the county.
While it is still legal to possess the herbal incense substances in New York, Valenza said the ban has made them much harder to obtain, especially for teens who can’t easily shop on the Internet without a credit card.
“The chances of a 14- or 15-year-old getting it are reduced if it’s not in stores and is only sold on the Internet,” he said.