Tougher Texas drug laws targeting synthetics take effect

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Texas legislators voted to allow one medical marijuana product, but they also are taking steps to prevent sales of the drug's synthetic forms.

The Texas House and Senate voted unanimously on updates that will strengthen the Texas Controlled Substances Act.

The Controlled Substances Act isn't new, but several drugs are.

Legislators need to update the list of illegal substances during every session, but this time, they've also taken steps to outlaw new drugs more quickly.

Synthetic marijuana goes by many names, like spice or K2, and the list of these products keeps growing.

Once one product is made illegal, distributors could make small changes to the chemical makeup of the drug so that it is legal again.

These small changes kept harmful drugs on the shelves, which is why the law was expanded.

Typically synthetic drugs are made of chemicals from two different families and combined using another "linking" chemical.

More than 1,000 different chemical combinations that could be used to make these drugs are now considered illegal.

"We've been working on this for several sessions," Dist. 62 State Rep. Larry Phillips said. "How do you get ahead of these groups that are trying to sell to our teens, and they're just changing a molecular compound here and a molecular compound there, and therefore, they're no longer technically illegal. And so we think that this is going to give us a whole lot better chance to get some prosecutions against those that are putting them out there."

Phillips says commissioners for the State Department of Health Services will be allowed to place new, harmful substances on an emergency list.

Any substance on this list will be outlawed until they can be officially voted on during the next legislative session.

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