Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, joined by the Texas Attorney General and City of Houston, obtained a judgment for more than $2.5 million in civil fines and penalties against Fantasy Smoking & Accessories for selling synthetic marijuana.
Synthetic marijuana, also known 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 instead is a dried leafy substance that is sprayed with powerful hallucinogenic chemicals that are dangerous and highly addictive to the user. It is often sold in colorful packets, with names such as Spongebob and Zilla to appeal to children and teenagers, and is the second most abused drug by high school students, after marijuana itself. It is also illegal in Texas. In June 2017, 16 people were hospitalized after overdosing on kush in Hermann Park.
On January 30, District Court Judge Michael Landrum signed a final judgment, prohibiting the store owners from selling or offering for sale synthetic marijuana and other illegal drugs.
In 2015, Houston Police narcotics officers conducted undercover investigations at the family-owned shop that led to seizure of a garbage bag and jars containing over 77 pounds of synthetic marijuana and other illegal drugs. Officers also discovered labeling and packaging supplies for the drugs in the backroom of the store. The store clerk and one of the owners, Glen Cohen, were arrested for felony possession and delivery of a controlled substance.
The Harris County Attorney’s Office, along with the Texas Attorney General and City of Houston, then brought an enforcement action against Glen Cohen and the shop for deceptive trade practices and maintaining a common nuisance.
Should the court’s judgment be violated, the store is to be closed for one year. The store owners agreed to pay a total of $550,000 in civil fines and penalties to resolve the case and another $2 million if the court’s judgment is violated in the future.
“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.”