HOUSTON – Katz Boutique & Smoke Shops has been hit with $1.175 million in civil fines and penalties for selling synthetic drugs.
Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, joined by the Texas Attorney General, made the announcement in a press release Thursday morning.
According to the release, on Aug. 31, District Court Judge Randy Wilson entered a final judgment against nine Houston area Katz Boutique & Smoke Shop stores and their owners, prohibiting them from selling or offering for sale synthetic drugs. Should any of the stores violate the court’s judgment, the store is to be closed for one year.
Katz’s owners also paid $1.175 million in civil fines and penalties to the state of Texas and Harris County to resolve the case.
Katz’s owners agreed to pay the $1.175 million fine to settle lawsuits filed by the state and county, the release states. The lawsuits resulted from a series of undercover investigations by Harris County Sheriff’s Office narcotics officers that led to the seizure of more than 3,000 packets of synthetic drugs. The investigation revealed the Katz stores had sold many thousands of packets of “Kush.”
The penalty is the largest ever paid in Texas from a case involving the sale of synthetic marijuana.
"Kush” is a designer drug, typically manufactured overseas, that is marketed as a “safe” and “legal” alternative to marijuana.
Kush, sometimes referred to as 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 to appeal to children, and is the second most abused drug by high school students after marijuana itself. It is also illegal in Texas.
In June, 16 people were hospitalized after overdosing on Kush in Hermann Park.
“Store owners who choose to sell Kush and ignore the law do so at their own peril,” Ryan said. “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 children. We will continue to seek substantial fines against them and shut down their businesses entirely if necessary.”