Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, joined by the Texas Attorney General and city officials, won a restraining order Tuesday from a Harris County civil court against three Houston-area smoke shops and their owners to stop the sale of synthetic marijuana, known on the streets as “kush.”
Based on a tip to the Houston Police Department, the three stores, known as Spice Boutique and Spice Inc., reportedly supplied some of the kush that led to a massive overdose in Hermann Park in June. At least 16 people were hospitalized.
Synthetic marijuana, or “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 that are dangerous and highly addictive to the user. It is often sold in colorful packets, with flavors such as strawberry and blueberry, 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.
Narcotics officers with the Houston Police Department conducted a series of undercover investigations at each of the three stores during July, resulting in issuance of search warrants and the arrest of the owners, Minh A. Dang and Tuan A. Dang, for selling illegal controlled substances.
Tuesday’s filing asks the court to shut down the three stores for one year for selling synthetic marijuana in violation of Texas law. In addition to the restraining order, County and State officials are seeking civil penalties against the owners for up to $20,000 per violation.
“The mass overdose in Hermann Park in June is a dramatic example of why we must re-double our efforts in the fight against these dangerous substances,” said County Attorney Ryan. “My office will continue to work with law enforcement, the Mayor and city officials to send the message that businesses that choose to sell these substances will face the consequences, including shutting down their business if necessary.”
Judge Joseph “Tad” Halbach of the 333rd Judicial District Court of Harris County entered Tuesday’s temporary restraining order. A hearing in the case has been scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on August 19.