Drug known as ‘plant food’ pulled from stores

Drug known as ‘plant food’ pulled from stores

Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper and Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson last week announced the statewide seizure of Molly’s Plant Food, a substance alleged to have been touted on the Internet for its mind-altering qualities when taken orally.  

The product has been known to cause severe physical and psychological side effects and is quickly spreading throughout the country as a popular but dangerous recreational drug, especially among high school students.  

In addition, the Attorney General’s Office has filed suit, asking for a temporary restraining order to stop the defendants from selling the product.

“We have all heard the news reports of a wide variety of products that are marketed for supposedly harmless purposes but cause real damage to the mind and bodies of some young people looking for that non-existent  ‘harmless high,’” Attorney General Cooper said. 

“We are glad that current law gives us a way to get this product off the shelves while the Legislature considers stiffer penalties.”

Although the company’s website has a disclaimer which states it is “not intended for human consumption,” other internet chat rooms and websites refer to “Molly’s Plant Food as “legal ecstasy.” The product contains mephedrone, a substance known to produce a feeling similar to that of methylenedioxymethamphetamine (also known as “ecstasy”) and cocaine when consumed orally.  

Named in the lawsuit are defendants Eric Ronnell Alexander and Joshua Covell, who operate businesses under the names “Faded Botanicals” and “Molly’s Plant Food,” which manufacture, market, sell and distribute a product known as “Molly’s Plant Food” (MPF).  Upon receiving the judge’s signed order, investigators from the Attorney General’s office are coordinating with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies statewide to seize the product from store shelves. Tennessee Department of Agriculture inspectors are assisting in this effort.  

Nashville-area law enforcement officers served seizure and restraining orders on the defendants at their homes and the Nashville-based business Toke-N-Roll, which is located at 4824 Old Hickory Blvd. in Hermitage. Officers were in the process of seizing the product from various convenience stores and other commercial businesses throughout the state on Friday. 

No criminal charges have been filed in this case. However, the Attorney General’s Office and Department of Agriculture have cited civil law violations because the product has not been properly registered and labeled in accordance with state law, according to the complaint.

Under state law, nitrogen (a chemical component in the formula for mephedrone) is also recognized as a “plant nutrient” under state law and falls under the department’s registration and labeling laws. 

Mephedrone is not listed as a controlled substance and can be legally sold in the State of Tennessee.  The Federal Analog Act, a section of the United States Controlled Substances Act, allows any chemical “substantially similar” to a Schedule I or II drug to be treated as if it were the actual controlled substance. The Act, however, only pertains to drugs which are “intended for human consumption.”  

“This so called plant food is nothing short of a very dangerous drug,” said Dr. Sullivan Smith, Emergency Services Medical Director for Cookeville Regional Medical Center, who has testified before the Tennessee Legislature about the growing problem. 

“Calling it a plant food is just a way around the law which would place this drug into the same classification as heroin and LSD. We first started seeing patients in the emergency department in January. Since then we now see these patients just about every day. Some of these patients are suffering from life threatening blood pressures, heart rates, and neurological effects. It is time for this drug to go away.” The defendants are manufacturing, marketing, selling and otherwise distributing the product as a “plant food,” which they label as “Not for Human Consumption.”  Neither the product itself, nor the defendants’ websites, contains any information regarding the ingredients, net weight, chemical analysis, or name and address of the distributor. 

The defendants also have admitted they have never tested the product on plants to ensure that it achieves its intended purpose. During the investigation, investigators from the Attorney General’s Office and Agriculture Department made several purchases of Molly’s Plant Food from local retailers.  

A laboratory analysis by the Department of Agriculture confirmed that a product sample purchased from the defendant’s business, Toke-N-Roll contained 3.75 percent nitrogen, making it a fertilizer and thus subject to regulation by the Department of Agriculture.  

wcp 3/17/11

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