State and local authorities are taking a more aggressive approach to getting synthetic drugs like "K2 Spice" and "bath salts" out of convenience stores.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry announced a new partnership and enforcement strategy Wednesday.
As part of the plan, police officers will deliver legal notices to dozens of gas station convenience stores and other retailers warning them against selling the synthetic drugs.
After receiving the notice and signing an agreement form, retailers will have one week to turn over any items or substances they wouldn't want found during a search. If they do that, they won't face any penalties.
If they're still selling the items after the seven-day window, there will be no second chances.
"So our point here today is we don't care if it meets the definition or not, and we're putting you on notice," Curry said.
Curry and Zoeller said that even if the ingredients of a substance don't meet the definition of an illegal drug, the intent to sell it as a synthetic drug could be grounds for civil prosecution.
Penalties could include fines, loss of inventory and loss of a commercial retail license for one year. That would essentially put a store out of business.
Curry said several months of police work have revealed dozens of retailers sell "spice" and "bath salts" in Marion County.
"We're not going to pick and choose, we're going to put all retailers on notice where it's potential to sell these items," Curry said.
The approach is modeled after a similar program in Illinois that has seen some success.
It also helps law enforcement keep up with the "moving target" of synthetic drugs. Makers of the synthetic substances often change their recipes to avoid breaking the law.
This new approach focuses on intent rather than specific ingredients.
State Senator Jim Merritt hinted that stronger state laws may be necessary to curb the dangerous growth of the substances. He urged stores to cooperate.
"The legislature is watching this, and we meet January," Merritt said. "And if this is not accepted by Retail Indiana, we will be back."