Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, joined by the Texas Attorney General and the City of Houston, obtained a judgment for more than $2.1 million in civil fines and penalties against the owners of Texas Tobacco smoke shop for selling synthetic marijuana.
Synthetic marijuana, known on the streets as “kush,” is a designer drug, typically 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 (called synthetic cannabinoids) that are dangerous and highly addictive to the user. Kush is often sold in colorful packets, with names such as Spongebob and Zilla, in order to appeal to children, and is the second most abused drug by high school students, after marijuana itself. It is also illegal in Texas.
In 2016, Houston Police narcotics officers conducted an undercover investigation of Texas Tobacco Smoke Shop at 5300 Telephone Road, owned by Sayed Ali and his wife Azmina Ali. Working with an informant, an undercover officer paid $460 for 25 bags of kush from the store owner, Sayed Ali. After the purchased kush tested positive for illegal substances, the officers returned to the store with a search warrant and obtained 80 more bags of kush. The store clerk and Sayed Ali were arrested and indicted for felony delivery of synthetic cannabinoids.
The Harris County Attorney’s Office, along with the Texas Attorney General and the City of Houston, brought a civil enforcement action against Texas Tobacco and its owners for deceptive trade practices and maintaining a common nuisance.
On May 11, District Court Judge Michael Landrum entered a judgment against Ali and his wife for more than $2.1 million in civil penalties plus attorneys’ fees.
Ryan’s office has brought more than 15 nuisance cases against smoke shops and convenience stores for selling synthetic cannabinoids.
“My office will continue the fight, together with law enforcement and state, county, and city officials, to put a stop to greedy store owners who sell these dangerous chemicals to our citizens,” County Attorney Ryan said. “We will continue to seek substantial fines against them and shut down their businesses entirely if necessary.”