The State of Texas is taking action on a dangerous trend of specialized stores marketing and selling synthetic drugs to consumers, including children.
On Wednesday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office announced a lawsuit, filed in conjunction with the City of Houston against a store for distributing products with ingredients of synthetic marijuana. According to the AG’s office the substance is dangerous and “has been lined to overdoses, serious injuries and even deaths.”
The lawsuit was filed against 2709 Broadway, Inc. and its owner, Layth Omran, for distributing the products as verified by an undercover investigation by the Houston Police Department and Houston Forensic Science Center. The joint investigation included the Harris County Attorney’s Office and the City of Houston’s Attorney’s Office. Over 150 packages of the substance were uncovered and seized at the store.
“My office will continue to work with local law enforcement officials to crack down on those who sell synthetic marijuana,” said Attorney General Paxton. “I am committed to combatting this growing threat in Texas by taking action against these businesses and their owners.”
Paxton’s Office “alleges that 2709 Broadway, its parent company, TazTaz Group, Inc. and its owner, Layth Omran, have violated the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, as well as common nuisance statutes under Texas law. Businesses selling these products are engaging in deceptive trade practices, as they are clearly misleading consumers with claims that the products are legal and safe, despite the dangers they pose.”
A temporary restraining order, a temporary injunction and permanent injunction on all businesses associated with the store to prevent the sale of these products has been requested in the filing.
“According to investigators, employees at 2709 Broadway were selling the dangerous synthetic drugs in packages deceivingly labeled as incense or ‘potpourri,’” a release from the FBI stated. The uncovered packages “had a list of misleading ingredients labeled as vegetable-based, such as ‘baby bean,’ ‘blue lotus’ and aroma essences.”
“When the packages seized by HPD were sent to the lab, the results confirmed that the products contain AB-CHMINACA and XLR11, both highly addictive and dangerous chemicals listed by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration as Schedule 1 controlled substances – the most dangerous kind,” the FBI indicated.
“While synthetic marijuana is marketed as ‘safe,’ the dangers of the substance are widely reported – including severe paranoia, psychotic episodes, violent delusions, kidney damage, suicidal thoughts and self-mutilation,” the report continued. “There has been an alarming uptick in these reports in 2014-15.”
Other incidents include action and lawsuits against a convenience store in the Houston area called Almeda Food Mart in July. Local law enforcement seized over 300 packages of the synthetic marijuana products. One month prior, four Houston-area stores, Katz Boutique, were sued for marketing and selling the product to children. It was called “Kush” and sold in various fruit flavors. A temporary injunction in currently in place.
In June 2013, 18 people were arrested on federal charges of synthetic marijuana distribution at retail locations in San Antonio and Austin. Operators at three “Kash Tobacco & Novelties in Austin as well as the owner of the Best Foods #2 convenience store and Hang Ten Smoke Shop in San Antonio” were arrested.
According to U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman, authorities “have seized thousands of packages containing synthetic marijuana, cash, and an assortment of materials used to manufacture synthetic cannabinoids.”
“Let me be clear about this. This is not marijuana,” Pitman stated. “These are chemical substances that are, to the user, completely unknown and that pose potentially serious health risks.”
In San Antonio 12 people were arrested with indications “the defendants are responsible for the production and distribution of synthetic marijuana and bath salts in San Antonio, Houston, Austin, Dallas, and Laredo, as well as Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma,” an FBI release noted. The FBI release also noted these illegal products are also known as “Spice,” “K2,” or “Kush.”
The products are also marketed as “Scooby Snax,” “Paradise,” “Mad Monkey,” “Sexy Monkey,” and “Devil Eye.”
An Internet search show these products being advertised in the South Texas area for about $15-$18 per four or five grams.
“There have been reports in our own community of people, especially young people, who have had potentially serious health effects from their use,” Pitman added. “To the owners and operators of convenience stores and smoke shops who sell illegal designer drugs, we are here to tell you that this is just the beginning of our effort to enforce the law with respect to the sale of these potentially dangerous substances.”
“To people in the community who think that designer drugs are a safe and legal option, we hope that this will provoke an understanding not just that they are illegal, but that you are playing a game of Russian roulette when you put these unregulated and unknown chemicals into your body,” Pittman emphasized.