CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has joined a letter with 42 other state and territorial attorneys general asking nine oil companies to collaborate with their franchisees to help eliminate illegal synthetic drugs from gas station and convenience stores.
Synthetic drugs mimic marijuana, cocaine, and other illegal drugs. While labeled as “not for human consumption,” people will smoke or inhale them to experience a high. However, the drug can cause paranoia, hallucinations, convulsions, and death.
The letter was sent to British Petroleum, Chevron Corp., Citgo Petroleum Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp., Marathon Petroleum Corp., Phillips 66, Shell Oil Co., Sunoco, and Valero Energy Corp. It asks the companies to take the following actions:
- Prohibit franchisees from selling any synthetic drugs;
- Ensure this prohibition is understood by store franchisees and their employees by communicating directly with each of them;
- Establish a point of contact in corporate offices for franchisees, should they have any questions about synthetic drugs;
- Revoke franchisee/franchisor relationship with any gas station or convenience store that sells any kind of synthetic drugs; and
- Report to local law enforcement authorities if any franchisee is selling synthetic drugs.
“The federal government and West Virginia’s Legislature have taken dramatic steps in recent years to curb and halt the use of illegal synthetic drugs in our nation and state,” Morrisey said in a press release. “Our office previously was successful in shutting down a Georgia business — Nutragenomics Manufacturing LLC — that manufactured and sold synthetic drugs in West Virginia.
"But manufacturers will slightly change the molecular structure of their products to attempt to skirt the laws. We urge oil companies to work with gas station and convenience store franchisees to keep these drugs off their shelves and away from consumers who may not understand their danger.”
The use of synthetic drugs has increased dramatically over the past four years. In 2010, more than 11,000 people, many of whom were younger than 17, went to the emergency room after using synthetic marijuana. Since then, thousands more have been harmed by synthetic drugs. In 2014, one health department reported a 220 percent increase in emergency room visits due to the ingestion of synthetic marijuana. Over this same period, enforcement agencies confirmed more than 130 instances of branded gas stations having sold synthetic drugs.
In the letter, led by the Illinois and Florida attorneys general, Morrisey and others expressed concern over the problem of gas stations and convenience stores operating under brand names of reputable oil companies and selling illegal and extremely dangerous synthetic drugs.
“The fact that synthetic drugs have been available at locations operating under respected brand names has only exacerbated an already growing problem,” the letter states. “Young people are the most likely to use these dangerous drugs, and their availability in stores operating under well-known brands gives the appearance of safety and legitimacy to very dangerous products.”
Morrisey said he understands that the problem of synthetic drugs in the state will not be eradicated if convenience stores and gas stations agree to stop selling them, but he said he believes it is a necessary step.
“We must use every tool to try to fight the problem of drug addiction in our state and nation,” he said. “If one person is saved by this letter and actions taken by some of the nation’s largest oil companies, then this step was worth it.”
In addition to Morrisey, the letter was signed by attorneys general for Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.