Harris County Sues Another Smoke Shop in War on Kush

Smoking kush at Wheeler Station.
Smoking kush at Wheeler Station.
Leif Reigstad

Looks like no more happy hippies will be browsing the Happie Hippie Smoke Shop, which closed earlier this year after its owners were arrested for selling kush, police say (the drug is also known as synthetic cannabinoid, K-2 or spice, and the substance that has plagued Houston streets and can cause users to act psychotic or zombie-like.)

This week, in continuing its crusade against the kush epidemic, the Harris County Attorney's Office and the Texas Attorney General have sued the business under the Deceptive Trade Act, and they're asking a court to make the owners pay $20,000 per violation, which, if a jury wants, can be interpreted as $20,000 per kush packet sold, the county attorney's office has told us in the past. Recently, the county attorney's office won a $1.7 million judgment against a similar smoke shop caught selling kush, Katz Boutique.

This time, in yet another successful undercover operation, Houston police officers acting on a tip entered the store in January to purchase some kush, according to the lawsuit. Unfortunately, Happie Hippie had just run out of the flavor the officer wanted, "Hulk." But, the clerk told the undercover cop, he did still have some "King Kong" and "Black Lotus" kush, which the officer happily accepted for $20 — then immediately took to the Houston Forensic Science Center for testing. Sure enough, it contained the illegal compounds used to make kush.

Later that month, the officers returned with a search warrant — and had to detain the owner, James Ayling, after he tried to rather conspicuously run away from the cops, according to the suit. At the shop, the cops found several black bags containing a "leafy substance," and Ayling admitted the shop sold about 100 to 150 packets of kush per day. At Ayling's apartment, which he shared with co-owner Esam Ali-Hasan, cops found bags of pure synthetic cannabinoids containing acetone — a mixture that gets sprayed onto dried leaves, which Ayling and Ali-Hasan then packaged sold under the counter.

Ayling admitted to police that the majority of Happie Hippie's sales came from kush, that the shop made about $30,000 a month just by selling kush and that the BMW that Ali-Hasan rolled up in was purchased with that money. Both Ayling and Ali-Hasan have been charged with felony possession with intent to deliver synthetic cannabinoids, in addition to facing the civil lawsuit.

Ayling pleaded guilty in September and was given five years' probation and deferred adjudication; Ali-Hasan's case has not yet been resolved.


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