HOUSTON — A Houston-based adult novelty store is watching its money go up in smoke after being slapped Thursday with a $1.175 million Kush fine.
The Harris County Attorney and the Texas Attorney General have fined Katz Boutique & Smoke Shop $1.175 million for allegedly selling synthetic marijuana.
The fine came about following an undercover sting operation that caught Katz selling Kush out of nine of its Houston stores last year. The investigation led to the seizure of more than 3,000 packets of the drug, thousands of which were sold at Katz stores. The owners agreed to pay the hefty fine and settle any lawsuits.
"It's the largest fine of it's kind against a retailer for selling synthetic marijuana," said Rosemarie Donnelly, an assistant attorney at the Harris County Attorney's Office.
A district court judge entered a final judgment last week against nine of the retail chains and their owners. The judgement prohibits the business from selling synthetic pot or any other synthetic drugs. Harris County hopes this hefty fine sets an example for other business owners to stay away from selling the synthetic drug, which was deemed illegal in September 2015. If the owners don't follow this ruling, they could face being closed for a year.
"We believe that this fine against the Katz stores, sends a very strong message to store owners," Donnelly said. "If you continue to violate the law, we will come after you. We will seek a fine, and if necessary, we will shut down your store."
The Katz locations are Kush-free for now, and continue to remain open — as well as similar adult stores such as Spice Boutique. The Dang brothers, who own Spice Boutique, were arrested last month for selling the drug.
"We need to cut off the money," Donnelly said. "In the case of the Dang brothers brothers, we have seized over $2 million dollars in that case (between the District Attorney's Office and our office)."
The selling of Kush is very lucrative, and county prosecutors are putting forth their best efforts to get this junk off the streets.
"It is not marijuana," Donnelly said. "The danger of this product is you don't know what you're getting. You don't know the precise nature of the chemicals. You don't know the ingredients that are being included with the chemicals."
She said some Kush makers lace the product with acetone, which is the main element in most finger nail polish remover.
"It can cause serious, serious harm and is high, highly addictive," Donnelly said.
Law enforcement agencies are also facing the prevalent dangers that come with dealing synthetic marijuana, she said.
"You're going to see more these cases," Donnelly said. "We're going to continue to send a strong message to stores."
The message: stay away from this stuff! If not for your own peace of mind, for your money.