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. The street name varies, but this class of synthetic drugs is known as Kush or K2.
Synthetic cannabinoids have been linked to severe paranoia, psychotic episodes, violent delusions, kidney damage, suicidal thoughts, and self-mutilation. According to the DEA, it is the second-most abused substance by high school seniors, and overdoses of the drug are increasing in Texas.
The Texas Attorney General’s Office, Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan and the City of Houston obtained a temporary restraining order (TRO), issued by Judge Jaclanel McFarland, stopping Brothers Market and Meat Mart, and Fantasy Smoking and Accessories, two Houston businesses and their owners, from selling the highly addictive and dangerous synthetic drugs on Friday (Jan. 29). The lawsuit was also filed as part of the joint operation with the Harris County Attorney’s Office, the City of Houston, the Houston Police Department (HPD) and the Houston Forensic Science Center. Several undercover investigations by the HPD Narcotics Division uncovered and ultimately led to the seizure of dangerous synthetic drugs at both places of business.
“Today’s joint operation shows the commitment of state, county and city authorities to form a united front to fight this growing threat to our youth,” said Attorney General Ken Paxton. “The illegal marketing and sale of powerful and deadly drugs, to children and adults alike, must be put to a stop. My office will continue working with local authorities across Texas to clearly send the message that businesses who choose to sell these substances will pay the price.”
“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.”
Houston Police officers found packages of K2 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 at 9:00 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; and Brothers Market and Meat Mart, located at 3134 E. Crosstimbers Street, and its owners Ali Jaber Faiz, Omar Jaber, Sawsan Mahmoud Jaber, Mohamed Jaber, 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 storeowner, 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.” HPD officers seized forty packages, labeled with a list of misleading ingredients. 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.
To view the filings against defendants, please visit: https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/files/epress/Fantasy_Smoke_-_File_Stamped_Copy.pdf and https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/files/epress/Brothers_File_Stamped_Copy.pdf.
To view the temporary restraining orders, please visit: https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/files/epress/brothers_meat_market_tro2016-01-29-125306.pdf and https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/files/epress/fantasy_tro2016-01-29-125946.pdf.