AUSTIN, Texas - The Austin Police Department is backing proposed legislation to crack down on those dealing synthetic drugs.
Synthetic drugs go by different names: K2, bath salts and spice are just a few. Dealers claim the small square packets they sell offer a cheap and legal high but the drugs are also linked to cases of violent overdoses. APD Lt. Frank Dixon is trying to prevent more incidents from happening.
"It's become an increasing priority for us, especially as for the city of Austin in the last six months we've seen an uptick in K2 overdoses," said Lt. Dixon.
In November, police caught two people selling K-2 that allegedly triggered more than two dozen medical emergencies. In May, three people were accused of selling K2 that caused 37 overdoses. But only a few of the cases resulted in arrests because the chemicals used in the drugs were not classified as illegal.
"The whole point of the synthetic is they can take that chemical structure and slightly alter it, each time they do we are back to square one with that particular compound," said APD Commander Chris McIlvain in a December FOX 7 report.
The city of Austin is considering an ordinance to restrict the sale of synthetic drugs, similar to efforts in Lubbock and Houston, but Lt. Dixon is lobbying for a more unified approach.
"It's not just a local problem; this is a state problem, a nationwide problem," said Lt. Dixon.
Legislation filed at the State Capitol will provide law enforcement two ways to crack down on those dealing synthetic drugs. In a phone conversation Friday from his home district, State Senator Charles Perry (R) Lubbock told FOX 7 the bills he drafted will provide local authorities the tools they need.
"Yep, close the loophole," said Senator Perry.
SB 461 allows mislabeling charges to be filed against dealers and manufacturers. The bi-partisan bill is co-authored by Senators Kevin Eltife (R) Tyler, Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa (D) McAllen and Jose Rodriguez (D) El Paso.
SB 199 amends the controlled substance act to be a catch all. That will address synthetic with modified chemical compositions that may not be exactly like but are similar to an illegal drug. This bill is co-authored by Senator Eltife (R) Tyler.
"What it does it goes to the heart of the matter, it hits the pocket book of those that are retailing it out of there," said Senator Perry.
Lt. Dixon is now spending time at the State Capitol trying to help Senator Perry drum up support.
"Up until now we haven't had any way to proactively target the dealers and smoke shops and those in possession of these substances so this law will do a lot to help us," said Lt. Dixon.
If approved by state lawmakers and signed by the Governor the new synthetic drug laws will take effect in September. Lt. Dixon also said if the legislation becomes law APD will immediately start an enforcement campaign.