SEABROOK — Tamara Calabrese says her family has lost everything after her husband became addicted to synthetic cannabinoids, or “fake weed,” and she’s become a force behind the local move to keep the product, legally sold in town as herbal incense, out of the hands of users.
A mother and wife who saw her son fall victim to synthetic marijuana and her 61-year old husband lose his job, the family savings and retirement due to his addiction to it, Calabrese is now also the defendant in a lawsuit brought against her by the two local stores she’s called out publicly for selling the product.
In his lawsuit brief, attorney Richard Foley claims Calabrese defamed his Seabrook smoke-shop clients, Smokers City and the Smoking Monkey, when she said at the selectmen’s meeting that the stores sold synthetic cannabinoid with full knowledge it was harming people. Foley claims Calabrese made similar statements on Facebook pages.
The suit seeks to make Calabrese stop making such statements, she said, and it is also seeking damages.
“They’ve come after me because I named names and called a spade a spade,” Calabrese said last week. “I saw my son and husband addicted. I don’t know what the long-term health effects are for people who become addicted to this stuff. I’ve already lost everything. I have nothing left to lose. They’re trying to intimidate me, trying to make me shut up, but I won’t shut up, and I will not be intimidated.”
Synthetic cannabinoid is chemically treated herbs sold legally as a pleasant-smelling herbal incense. But when smoked, it produces an addictive high many believe is more dangerous than marijuana due to the chemicals that are inhaled.
Previous to filing this suit against Calabrese, Foley threatened to sue the town to get officials to stop replaying over Seabrook’s cable channel the recording of the selectmen’s Sept. 9 meeting when Calabrese and others slammed synthetic marijuana and those who legally sell it in the community. But the town refused, citing legal precedent that allows its rebroadcast as a “faithful representation of what happened at the meeting.” As of Friday, Town Manager Bill Manzi said the town has not been served with a lawsuit.
On Thursday, Calabrese and her attorney Tom Gleason of Haverhill will meet Foley at Rockingham County Superior Court for a pretrial hearing, she said. She doesn’t know what will happen, but she feels she’s well represented.
Calabrese believes the lawsuit against her is also intended to intimidate others who have come out against synthetic cannabinoid. The suit is meant to silence them, she believes, for they might fear they’ll also get sued. Selling fake weed is a lucrative business, she said.
To show solidarity with Calabrese, a group of concerned residents will mount a protest march on Friday, with picketers expected at both local smoke shops. The protest organizers, known as the Citizens Against the Sale of Synthetic Cannabinoids, invites other like-minded individuals to join them on that day to send a message to the store owners, in hopes they’ll voluntarily take the products off their shelves.