HOUSTON (KTRK) --Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and a number of other local officials announced today the results of a narcotics investigation involving Kush, also known as synthetic marijuana.
Police have charged Minh Dang, 42, and Tuan Dang, 46, with two counts each of engaging in organized criminal activity. authorities say they seized 30 pounds of illegal narcotics in the operation.
In addition, investigators say they recovered a gun, vehicles and thousands of dollars in U.S. currency and gold bars.
The Dangs were arrested on Tuesday. Police say the Dang's own a retail chain called "Spice Boutique," whose three locations were found to be selling synthetic pot. Four additional suspects, employees of "Spice Boutique," were also arrested and face charges of engaging in organized criminal activity and falsifying drug test results.
The investigation was a combined effort to combat the sale and consumption of Kush.
The mayor said today "bells went off" after a mass hospitalization of 16 people at Hermann Park back in June. Turner said it was a "clear indication" there needed to be a great emphasis on the issue.
HPD's Marsha Todd said they've identified 58 locations across Houston that were suspected of selling Kush, and they filed dozens of narcotics-related charges against those locations. Todd said they've recovered 400 pounds of Kush so far. In addition to criminal charges, they've filed civil penalties in eight cases that include temporary restraining orders and temporary and permanent injunctions against the stores, the owners, and the employees who continue to sell Kush. Todd added, "We have many more (cases) pending."
The Kush is often sold, according to HPD and Harris County officials, in otherwise legitimate businesses, such as smoke and sexual merchandise shops and convenience stores.
Turner said Kush has been sold in Houston for "quite some time," but the issue has gotten to be pervasive in our area. "If we don't target the problem...it's going to get worse," he said, adding, "We are going to win this battle."
Turner said the focus has now shifted from those using the product to those who continue to sell these products. He said, "We are focusing on these entities that are selling this nonsense...and are leaving the problem for everyone else. (We need to) shut them down. Get this stuff out of these communities."
"Each time we get one of those locations we add them to our list, and start targeting those," said Todd, of HPD.