The Texas Attorney General’s office and the Harris County Attorney’s Office are going after shops selling the synthetic cannabinoid Kush. Instead of prosecuting users, the offices have jointly filed 10 lawsuits against Houston-area novelty stores, where up to 40 percent of sales come from the drug. One novelty store has agreed to a nearly $1.2 million settlement after an undercover sting operation.
Selling the synthetic drug is illegal and the usage of Kush has become what some are calling an epidemic. In June, 16 people in Houston's Hermann Park overdosed on the drug. Houston EMS said they had received over 900 calls for help from summer 2015 to March 2016 for Kush-related instances.
"The way that Kush is sold is very different than other drugs,” she says. “In the point of view of the Attorney General and the Harris County Attorney, it's pretty brazen. They sell this drug over the counter and in little corner stores – in this case a chain of adult novelty stores.”
Owners of stores in the lawsuits are under court orders to stop selling Kush and stores that continue will be threatened with criminal charges for any Kush packets found on the premises.
Kush – also known as spice or K2 – comes in a plastic pouch or packet, often branded with cartoon characters like the Mario Brothers, Scooby-Doo or Dopey from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. It’s also sold at stores branded as potpourri, incense or spices.
But Banks says drug manufacturers can order those packets online and then stuff them with whatever they want.
"It looks like you're getting a brand, but really you can choose what brand you are,” she says.
The drug often comes from a manufacturer in China, Banks says. It’s sent as a powder and branded as a cosmetic. Then makers pour acetone over the drug and spray the liquid mixture onto leaves.
“It's sort of brazen that it's being sold this way,” Banks says. “Going after the owner civilly and then hitting them in the pocketbook seems to be the next step."
Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.