Contact: Robert Soard
January 29, 2016 First Assistant County Attorney
713-274-5103 / 713-906-1211
Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, and the City of Houston today won temporary restraining orders banning the sale of the synthetic marijuana product known as Kush in two Houston area businesses.
The TRO’s were issued against stores that do business as Brothers Market and Meat Mart and Fantasy Smoking and Accessories as well as the owners and operators of these businesses and the owners of the properties where they are located. The orders were issued today by Judge Jaclanel McFarland.
“Kush may sound like an innocuous substance but it is extremely dangerous.” said County Attorney Ryan. “Ingesting these substances can cause paranoia, psychotic episodes, hallucinations and suicidal thoughts. People who have ingested Kush have suffered paralysis, brain damage, heart attacks and even death.”
Synthetic marijuana is a designer drug, often manufactured overseas, that is marketed as a “safe” and “legal” alternative to marijuana. Synthetic marijuana is not marijuana at all but a dried leafy substance that is sprayed with powerful, added-in hallucinogenic chemicals that are dangerous and highly addictive to the user. The added chemicals are intended to mimic the biological effects of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
Houston Police officers found packages of Kush at the stores during several inspections and undercover operations. Under Texas law, it is a crime to deliver or possess a synthetic cannabinoid. The synthetic cannabinoid found by HPD at the stores is a Schedule I controlled substance (the most dangerous).
The stores are also being sued under the Deceptive Trade Practices Act, alleging that the defendants have engaged in false, deceptive and misleading acts and practices in the course of trade and commerce since they are clearly misleading consumers that these products are safe and legal. The stores are also being sued as common nuisances under Texas law.
“I applaud the work of the government agencies and law enforcement to stop the sale of this product,” said County Attorney Ryan, “especially because unscrupulous people are marketing Kush to our children with colorful packaging covered with cartoon characters. This is unconscionable and must be stopped.”
The court has scheduled another hearing on these cases for February 12, 2016 at 9 a.m.
The two lawsuits, filed separately in Harris County district court by the Texas Attorney General's Office, the Harris County Attorney's Office, and the City of Houston, name the following defendants:
- Fantasy Smoking and Accessories a/k/a Sheer Fantasy, Inc., located at 1340 Westheimer, Houston, Texas, and its owners Glen Cohen and Judy Cohen
- Brothers Market and Meat Mart, located at 3134 E. Crosstimbers Street, and its owners Ali Jaber Faiz, Omar Jaber, Sawsan Mahmoud Jaber, Mohamed Jamer, Nemeh Jaber, and Louis Poutous
At the Fantasy Smoking and Accessories location HPD officers seized 77 pounds of synthetic drugs along with other controlled substances. Officers later determined the drugs were being ordered by the store owner, Glen Cohen, and were delivered in a trash bag and packaged individually by store employees. The Houston Forensic Science Center identified the substance as the synthetic cannabinoid XLR11.
At the Brothers Market and Meat Mart store, according to investigators, synthetic drugs were sold in packages deceivingly labeled as “potpourri” or “strawberry.” Forty packages, labelled with a list of misleading ingredients, were seized by HPD officers. Lab results confirmed the products contained AB-CHMINACA and XLR11, both highly addictive and highly dangerous, and listed as Schedule 1 controlled substances by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Texas Department of State Health Services.
The lawsuits allege violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, as well as common nuisance statutes under Texas law. The state, county, and city intend to seek a permanent injunction and civil penalties against both businesses.
A copy of the restraining orders can be viewed here and here.
A copy of the petitions can be viewed here and here.