New legislation aims to criminalize 'designer drugs'

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Two proposed bills filed by State Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, would strengthen current drug laws to facilitate the battle against dangerous synthetic drugs known as K2 and 25I. 

K2 and 25I are referred to as “designer drugs” due to their chemical compositions, which can be modified by street chemists to skirt drug laws and avoid criminal prosecution for sales and consumption. K2 is considered a synthetic cannabinoid, while 25I is a hallucinogenic substance that mimics the effects of psychoactive drugs like LSD and ecstasy. 

“Designer drugs are a growing threat to health and public safety that have already harmed many families and individuals — a significant number of whom are young people,” Huffman said in a press release. 

According to the press release, Texas Poison Control centers received 470 exposure calls for K2 in 2012. 25I was blamed for the deaths of two young Houston residents last year, 21-year-old Kevin Schoolmeyer and a 15-year-old female who died a month after him. 

The first bill would criminalize new compounds of synthetic cannabinoids produced since the original bill banning K2 was passed during the last legislative session. The bill calls for a widening of legal parameters to enable law enforcement to crack down on street chemists with increased efficiency and effectiveness. 

“They’re trying to clean up the language to encompass all substances that may be a synthetic cannabinoid,” said Houston Police Department officer Mike Baccus after testifying in support of the bill at a public hearing Tuesday. 

“If it’s not in the law, we can’t enforce it,” Baccus said.

The second bill would criminalize the distribution, possession and manufacturing of 25I. The drug is currently sold unregulated online as a research chemical.

“Many young people in Texas mistakenly believe designer drugs are safe because they’re sold in stores and on the Internet,” Huffman said. “In fact, there is no beneficial or legitimate use for these products and they can cause life-threatening symptoms or death to those
who use them.”

Lt. Gray Smith of the Narcotics Division of the Houston Police Department expressed his support for the bills, citing the designer drug problem plaguing his city and the surrounding area. 

“Houston and the surrounding Gulf Coast Region have seen significant production, distribution and consumer sales of these substances which have caused so much harm nationally,” Smith said. “These bills will allow for the closer coordination between the police, crime labs and the courts and aid in bringing criminal prosecutions regarding these substances to a successful conclusion.”