Stop selling synthetic drugs at gas stations, AG Cooper urges oil companies

RALEIGH — Oil companies must help stop dangerous synthetic drugs from being sold at gas stations and convenience stores, Attorney General Roy Cooper urged Tuesday.

Cooper today joined 42 other state attorneys general to send a letter to nine oil companies asking them to work with their franchisees to help eliminate synthetic drugs from retail locations operating under their brand names.

“Despite laws against them these potentially harmful drugs are all too easy to get, especially for young people,” Cooper said. “While law enforcement works to enforce existing laws against synthetic drugs, manufacturers try to evade those laws and sell their drugs at local gas stations and convenience stores.”

Synthetic drugs include both synthetic marijuana, often sold as potpourri, herbal incense, K2, or Spice, and synthetic cathinones, typically sold as bath salts or jewelry cleaner. These substances are labeled “not for human consumption” to evade Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversight but are smoked or ingested by users to get high.

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, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Since then, thousands more have been harmed by synthetic drugs.

“The fact that synthetic drugs have been available at locations operating under respected brand names has only exacerbated an already growing problem. 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. Your companies spend millions of dollars on marketing campaigns designed to convince consumers that your brands are trustworthy. Enforcing strong policies against the sale of synthetic drugs in your retail locations can only protect your brand reputation while also protecting our youth,” the attorney generals wrote in their letter.

The letter sent today to British Petroleum, Chevron Corporation, Citgo Petroleum Corporation, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Marathon Petroleum Corporation, Phillips 66, Shell Oil Company, Sunoco, and Valero Energy Corporation asks the oil companies to take action to prevent their franchisees from selling synthetic drugs.

Specifically, Cooper and the other attorneys general are asking the oil companies to:

· Prohibit franchisees from selling any synthetic drugs;

· Ensure store franchisees and their employees understand the prohibition by communicating directly with each of them;

· Establish a point of contact in corporate offices for franchisees with questions about synthetic drugs;

· Revoke franchisee/franchisor relationship with any gas station or convenience store that sells synthetic drugs; and

· Report to local law enforcement authorities if any franchisee is selling synthetic drugs.