County Attorney Ryan Wins Court Order Against Spring Branch Smoke Shops Stop Sales of Illegal Vaping Oil

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan has won court orders against two Spring Branch smoke shops to stop them from selling vaping oil laced with illegal chemicals.

The added-in chemicals, generally known as synthetic cannabinoids, are manmade, mind- altering chemicals that are either sprayed on plant material (Kush) or sold as a liquid to be vaped in e-cigarettes or other devices. They are dangerous and highly addictive to the user. They are also illegal in Texas. Also called “Spice” and “K2,” synthetic cannabinoids can cause rapid heart rate, vomiting, violent behavior, hallucinations and suicidal thoughts. Illicit drug manufacturers are adding synthetic cannabinoids to CBD (cannabidiol) oil, which is often used with a vaping device. Law enforcement agencies report increased use of “laced” CBD oil, particularly by teenagers and young adults. The tainted CBD oil is also sold by retail stores as “gummie” candy.

Ryan has filed more than a dozen lawsuits to stop retailers from selling Kush and in a number of cases put the retailers out of business. On Tuesday, Ryan filed lawsuits against Smokey Doke Smoke Shop, 5784 Bingle, and Dreamerz Smoke Shop, 2961 Bingle, for selling CBD oil tainted with synthetic cannabinoids. From February through April, undercover narcotics officers with the Houston Police Department purchased CBD oil products, which later tested positive for controlled substances. On May 1, HPD narcotics officers executed search warrants at the two stores and seized CBD oils, pills, edibles and synthetic urine (which is also illegal).

The County Attorney’s lawsuits claim that the stores are a nuisance and their owners violated the state’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act by selling products they claimed were safe and legal, when in fact they are unsafe and illegal.

Judge Larry Weiman of the 80th District Court of Harris County entered restraining orders, ordering that the stores immediately stop selling illegal CBD oil products.

“These drug manufacturers and the store owners who sell these products are causing severe harm to Harris County residents, particularly our young people,” County Attorney Ryan said. “Whether it’s Kush or CBD oil, the County Attorney’s Office will continue our efforts to stop these sales and protect our residents.”

Click here to view the Temporary Restraining Order against the Dreamerz Smoke Shop.

Click here to view the Plaintiff’s Petition against Dreamerz Smoke Shop.

Click here to view the Temporary Restraining Order against Smoke Doke Smoke Shop.

Click here to view the Plaintiff’s Petition against Smokey Doke Smoke Shop.


County Attorney Ryan obtains $2.16 million judgment against Happie Hippie Smoke Shop selling illegal synthetic drugs

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, and Attorney General Ken Paxton have obtained a $2.16 million judgment against Happie Hippie Smoke Shop for selling dangerous, illegal synthetic drugs.

Judge Michael Landrum of the 113th Civil District Court signed a default judgment on April 14th awarding the State $2.16 million in penalties and $17,224 in attorneys’ fees finding 108 violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.  The court ordered the operators to halt all activities related to the production, transfer, possession, or sale of controlled substances, including synthetic cannabinoids. 

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Judge denies effort to stop VW diesel lawsuit filed by Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan has won a major victory in the County’s lawsuit against Volkswagen, preventing federal law from stopping state and county claims.

Harris County and the State of Texas can proceed with their case against Volkswagen for violating air emissions because a judge has determined that the company’s recall of autos to change emission control devices is not preempted by federal law.

Volkswagen claimed the state and county could not continue the case involving tampering with emission control devices on its diesel-fueled cars, because federal – and not state -- law prevailed. However, state District Judge Tim Sulak of the 353rd District Court in Austin signed an order Wednesday finding that because the recalled vehicles were already on Texas roads, the state is not pre-empted by the federal government in enforcing environmental laws.

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KHOU: Hundreds of suspected illegal massage businesses found near Harris County schools

Houston - Around 16,000 kids in Harris County go to school within 1,000 feet of a suspected illegal massage business.

That’s according to Children At Risk, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to protect the most vulnerable in this community.

The nonprofit released its findings on how close some local schools are to these type of businesses.

For instance, Edgar Allan Poe Elementary in Houston is identified as one of several schools to be within 1,000 feet of a suspected illegal massage business

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Katy News: Statement of Harris County Attorney Ryan on beginning of San Jacinto River Waste Pits Cleanup

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan praised the announcement today that the design for cleaning up the San Jacinto River Waste Pits will begin.  Ryan said that Harris County will review and comment on the plans as they proceed.

“We are grateful to see this process start,” said Ryan.  “Our memorandum of understanding with the Environmental Protection Agency allows the County Attorney’s Office to remain involved with the cleanup process, which we have pursued for many years.”

The EPA announced today that the agency has reached an agreement with International Paper Company and McGinnes Industrial Maintenance Corporation to design the cleanup of the Superfund site.  Those companies are the ones responsible for putting over 200,000 cubic yards of dangerous waste chemicals in pits near the San Jacinto River.  They will pay for the cleanup.

Read the EPA news release here:

Houston Chronicle: Clean up of San Jacinto Waste Pits moving forward

Clean up of San Jacinto Waste Pits moving forward

Chronicle Article by Alex Stuckey

A plan for designing the cleanup of the San Jacinto Waste Pits has been agreed upon by the Environmental Protection Agency and the companies responsible for the contamination, which means it likely will happen sooner rather than later.

The EPA on Monday announced the agreement, the next step toward removing about 212,000 cubic yards of material contaminated with cancer-causing dioxin from the pits. The work is estimated to cost $115 million.

Monday’s announcement “is a big deal for us and the community,” said Rock Owens, an environmental attorney for Harris County. “This is a very important step - now we’re officially on to the step where the (companies) are cooperating.”

The EPA, along with The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, will oversee the design work for the cleanup, which will be completed over the course of 29 months by the responsible companies — International Paper Co. and McGinnes Industrial Maintenance Corp., the release said.

“Let’s lay down the sword, pick up the shovel and start digging,” Owens said.


Stat: Harris County seeks to keep opioid litigation in Texas

Assistant County Attorney Pegi Block spoke to Stat about the County's efforts to keep its litigation against opioid companies in Texas.

Harris County, where Block is an assistant county attorney, sued opioid manufacturers and drug distributors in December, alleging — like other plaintiffs around the country — that they flooded communities with addictive painkillers while downplaying the risk of the medications. But the county, the country’s third largest, is fighting to keep its case in state court and separate from the so-called multidistrict litigation being overseen by a federal judge in Cleveland.

“The damages were incurred here,” Block said in an interview at the county attorney’s Houston offices. “We believe that our judge, our county, our juries in Harris County not only have the right, but that they should be the ones to decide the fate of this lawsuit. This is where it happened.”

Houston Chronicle: Harris County could take over Aldine cemetery where grave markers destroyed

By Mike Snyder

February 27, 2018 

State regulators have refused to renew a license held by the caretaker of a small northeast Harris County cemetery -- the first official finding that workers destroyed grave markers while clearing the site in 2016.

The order signed Monday by the state banking commissioner, Charles G. Cooper, could pave the way for Harris County to take over care of the cemetery, where members of several generations of Aldine-area residents are buried. The banking commission regulates "perpetual care" cemeteries in Texas.

Foresthaven Cemetery Corp., which has held the perpetual care license for about 30 years, has until March 29 to appeal the decision by requesting a hearing overseen by an administrative law judge. The banking department's action does not affect Foresthaven's ownership of the property, only its authority to operate the cemetery.

The company's president, Sugar Land attorney Corwin Teltschik, did not respond to a request for comment. Cooper's order said Teltschik maintained that no headstones were destroyed.

The order states that Foresthaven's agents destroyed "two or more" headstones in the fall of 2016, adding that "the manner in which (Foresthaven) allowed its agents to clear the cemetery was not undertaken with the care due to the persons interred in the cemetery and does not demonstrate a character that warrants the public's confidence."

Cooper also found that Foresthaven had not adequately maintained the cemetery — family members have handled mowing and other upkeep for years — and that Harris County was willing to maintain the cemetery if Foresthaven's license were not renewed.

Tammie West Wall, a family member who has led the effort to restore the damaged headstones and protect the cemetery, said she was grateful for Cooper's decision.

"This has been a long road, and to get anything positive out of it, to me, it's a true blessing," Wall said. "Everywhere else we've turned, we've gotten nowhere."

Harris County prosecutors looked into the case at the families' request and presented evidence to a grand jury last year, but no charges were filed. Assistant District Attorney Valerie Turner said her review concluded that at least four or five markers, and "probably more," had been removed by workers clearing the site.

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County Attorney Vince Ryan says opioid lawsuit should stay in Texas court

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan is fighting to keep the opioid lawsuit filed on behalf of Harris County in a state district court.

Ryan is opposing an effort by opioid drug distributors to move the lawsuit to federal court.  He has filed a motion seeking to have the case returned to state district court.

Three distributors—McKesson Corporation, Amerisource Bergen and Cardinal—moved Harris County’s lawsuit to federal court. They are also seeking to have the lawsuit transferred to a federal court in Cleveland, Ohio. If they are successful, Harris County’s motion to return the case to state district court will be ruled on in Ohio, not Houston, and the case will remain in Cleveland, Ryan said, resulting in a substantial delay in proceedings.

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