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Our Law Firm Represents Victim of Synthetic Marijuana


TROY – The family of Victor Woolson, a 19-year-old from Oswego, New York who died in 2012 after consumption of over-the-counter synthetic marijuana, has succeeded in a wrongful death lawsuit against Brian Colombo, owner of Xtreme Underground, a smoke shop located in Oswego. The family received $350,000 in the settlement. The Hacker Murphy law firm, who represented the family in the wrongful death lawsuit, is also pursuing for damages, Charles Burton Ritchie, who owns ZIW, LLC and manufactured the product.

John Harwick, Albany based lawyer at E. Stewart jones Hacker Murphy
Attorney John Harwick

“We are aggressively pursuing the individuals who manufactured this poison,” said John Harwick, attorney for Hacker Murphy. “Selling an improperly labeled product that was not reasonably safe for its intended purpose is inexcusable under the law. The defendants knew, or should have known, the true intended purpose of the product and the dangers associated with such.”

Synthetic marijuana, called Spice, has reportedly led to several negative side effects, including psychotic episodes. Although this “designer drug” was sold over-the-counter and marketed as potpourri and incense, experts report it was smoked by consumers and was much more powerful and dangerous than marijuana.

Woolson smoked a product called K2 Avalanche Incense before going swimming in a local lake. After a reaction to the product, during which Woolson lost control of his bodily functions, he drowned. A toxicity report showed that the only chemical in his body was the synthetic marijuana.

Avalanche was manufactured, distributed and marketed by ZIW, LLC. The product contained no labeling information on use, side effect warnings or potential dangers, and no reference regarding who made the product or how it was manufactured. However, the product was labeled falsely as having 100% all natural ingredients, when in fact it included synthetic psychotropic drug, which are considered hallucinogenic substances.

Avalanche was created with the illegal drug, XLR-11, illegally obtained from China and mixed in with plant matter. Ritchie sold ZIW in 2012 and is now a producer for Heritec Films, an indie movie production company. ZIW made millions of dollars a year on synthetic cannabinoids before it was sold. Richie is also the subject of lawsuits being pursued in Virginia and Oregon.


About Hacker Murphy: The January 2015 merger of the E. Stewart Jones and Hacker Murphy law firms created an entity with a combined 134-year track record of success in the Upstate New York legal community. With offices in Albany, Troy, Schenectady, and Saratoga Springs, the firm’s 15 attorneys offer unparalleled legal counsel in the areas of commercial litigation, property tax dispute, criminal defense and personal injury law. For more information, visit