On Tuesday, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced that it has charged 16 people — one of whom is a University of Houston - Victoria professor — in what it called “one of the largest synthetic cannabinoid trafficking enterprises in the country."
These 16 charges for fake-pot trafficking follow a lengthy, creepy-sounding investigation called "Operation ‘We Can Hear You Now,’" a joint venture between the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Houston Police Department. The investigation found that the drug ring has produced more than 9.5 tons of synthetic marijuana, often called "kush," over the past four or so years, a $35 million operation.
According to the attorney's office, here's how they were able to sell it: The people involved marketed the kush as though it were safe for consumption, sometimes labeling it as "potpourri" or "incense." Some packages even said it was "100% legal" or "lab certified." Really, though, the DEA says kush is not only 100 percent illegal but also can induce psychosis or seizures. Recently, the Harris County Attorney's Office has also cracked down on the convenience stores and headshops that sell this stuff, oftentimes to teenagers thanks to that colorful, fake marketing. Now, though, it appears the feds have brought out the big guns and nabbed the manufacturers and distributors at the top.
“This operation highlights an intentional and deliberate effort to cut off and shut down the supply of synthetic cannabinoids trafficked by callous dealers and the corresponding negative impact that this horrific drug inflicts on our communities," DEA Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Arabit said.
Most of the accused face charges including conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance, aiding or abetting in that process, or conspiracy to commit money laundering. All of them face up to 20 years in prison. The University of Houston — Victoria professor named in the indictment, 36-year-old Omar Maher Al Nasser, is charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and aiding and abetting in an unlicensed money transmitting business; his job was allegedly to assist in illegally moving drug money to bank accounts outside of the U.S.
According to ratemyprofessors.com, he seemed to be a beloved finance professor. Some students claimed that he was the best professor in the school, of all time, and one you remembered forever. One student said, "I think they should clone him and every professor should do what professor Al Nasser does."