HOUSTON (CN) – Texas is cracking down on synthetic marijuana dealers, suing a Houston man they claim sells it through a hole in the back of his store, the third alleged dealer they’ve sued this summer.
Texas and Houston sued Layth Orman and his company TazTaz Group on Wednesday in Harris County Court.
Orman and TazTaz own a gas station and convenience store in southeast Houston, where Houston police say they went undercover on July 22 and bought a pack of “Diablo” synthetic marijuana for $15.
Officers returned the same day and asked an employee if there was anything they needed to know before they inspected the store.
“The employee at first denied there was anything illegal in the store and then changed his mind and led the officers to a back storage room and opened a plain white plastic bag filled with packets of synthetic marijuana,” the complaint states.
He told police he had sold 50 to 75 bags of fake weed that day and then explained the store’s sales method, akin to a Prohibition-era speakeasy.
The worker said customers would ask the front counter clerk for “Kush,” a common brand of synthetic marijuana, and the clerk would give them a slip of paper marked with a 1 for a small bag, or a 2 for a big bag, and tell them to see him in the back of the store, according to the complaint. “The employee would then look at the receipt that was initialed by the clerk and retrieve a packet of Kush from behind the cooler area and deliver it to the customer,” the lawsuit states.
The employee told police he was armed and showed them a loaded 9 mm pistol, according to a police report filed as an exhibit in the case.
Police found it “peculiar” that the synthetic marijuana was near a stool next to a large hole in a back wall of the store. “It appeared to the officers that due to the position of the stool, location of the synthetic marijuana and box of receipts, that the employee was also dispensing the packets through this location,” the complaint states.
Police seized more than 8 lbs. of the stuff, stashed in brightly colored, eye-catching packets labeled “Klimax potpourri,” “Diablo,” “Geeked Up,” and “White Tiger.”
Lab tests showed the faux marijuana contained XLR11 and AB-CHMINACA, synthetic cannabinoids that Texas regulators have listed as Schedule I illegal drugs.
Under Texas and federal law, Schedule I drugs are highly addictive with no accepted medical use.
Synthetic marijuana is produced by spraying such synthetic cannabinoids on dried plant material. The spray usually comes from industrial labs in China. Though every state has banned the chemicals, producers have stayed a step ahead of lawmakers by tweaking the chemicals slightly to create new and technically legal versions.
Because synthetic marijuana is relatively cheap and powerful and doesn’t show up on drug tests it’s become a popular alternative to the genuine article, with often terrifying consequences.
More than 120 people in the Dallas area were hospitalized after they overdosed on a bad batch of synthetic marijuana, according to the lawsuit. The attorney for a 37-year-old Houston man who pleaded guilty in July to stabbing his wife to death in front of their two children, who police found straddling her body trying to pull her tongue and teeth out with pliers, told the Houston Chronicle, “He got some bad ‘Kush.'”
In the new lawsuit, prosecutors say psychotic episodes, severe paranoia and seizures are common outcomes of synthetic marijuana use, citing a Texas Poison Center Network study.
Prosecutors have turned to the courts to shut down dealers. Orman is the third Houston-area store owner they have sued since June, seeking injunctions to stop the sales.
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