Targeting a Generation: Law enforcement's hurdles in the fight against synthetic drugs

The Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act was passed in 2012.

Texas law regarding synthetic drugs bans "any quantity of a synthetic chemical compound that is a cannabinoid receptor agonist and mimics the pharmacological effect of naturally occurring cannabinoids." It also include a list of chemicals.

The federal laws and the Texas statute may be causing difficulties for law enforcement and prosecutors.

"The Texas statute isn't tied to the analog section. So when you get one that mirrors or is similar...would be an analog to one of the listed ones. You can't go to our analog section and go ahead and prosecute it because the analog section is not tied to the statute. It was something that was overlooked," said Randall Sims, Potter County district attorney.

James Farren, District Attorney for Randall County said "the statute was written strangely and it needs to be cleaned up a bit by our legislators but it is sufficient enough to pursue prosecution."

Synthetic drugs are hard to identify. They don't show up on regular drug tests and can't be detected by canines.

"It's not readily identifiable as being an illegal substance like all the other drugs that are real substances that we have to deal with," Sims said.

Because the drugs can be an endless possibility of chemical compounds, testing for the drugs isn't quick.

"They have to seize the drugs and take it to the DPS lab... On a good month, it would take about two weeks because you don't know what you're testing for," said Lavisa Matthews, Impact Futures.

Sims said Potter County is still waiting on lab tests results that were sent 10 months ago.

New devices allow detection of certain chemicals on the spot, but even then, the drugs need to be sent off to a lab.

After the chemicals are identified, there is yet another step.

"You have to have someone testify that this drug, this synthetic drug also affects the very same cannabanoid receptors in the brain the same way," Farren said.

Randall county has been going after users, sellers and producers in full force.

They have closed three head shops, seized 126 pounds of K-2 and $100,000 worth of synthetics and paraphernalia.

"If you come here to do it, we're going to take your product away from you, we're going to take the money you got, you acquired as a result of your activity involved with the drug and we're going to send you to jail or prison depending on the amount you have," Farren said.

Among the head shops was a seemingly unspecting one.

"Sonny Days" was a snow cone shop that was selling more than the icy treats.

"When he happened to do a business check, this was parked out there. He looked inside to make sure everything was inside and he sees huge boxes just out in plain view of synthetic marijuana," said an officer with the Randall County Sheriff's Office.

Staying one step ahead of the producers will be difficult.

"If something's made illegal already then they take what they have an just tweak it and they've got something brand new," said Matthews.

She also said the only way to stop synthetic drugs is the change the way the law is worded.

It's proving to be a tricky task.