(KYTX) - Since synthetic marijuana hit retailers in 2009, poison centers everywhere have been bombarded with phone calls relating to its use.

The designer drug has been linked to more than 15 deaths in the U.S. this year alone. That's nearly triple what it was last year.

"Synthetic drugs have become a big problem for us," said Lt. Gary Middleton with the Smith County Sheriff's Office.

Back in 2011, Texas legislators banned five different types of synthetic marijuana. But Middleton said drug developers have found a way around the law by tweaking one compound of the substance to make it legal.

"What we're concerned with is the results are all the same," said Middleton.

That's why beginning September 1, a new Texas law will expand the list of chemical compounds that are illegal which will lead to one thousand combinations of the drug being outlawed.

"It'll be a lot easier to prosecute a case, to make an arrest and deal with the problems that we're having with it," explained Middleton.

State Representative Matt Schaefer said this new law will make it much harder for young people to get their hands on the drug.

"This is a way for us to clamp down on a chemical compound that has great potential to do harm," said Schaefer.

Anthony Rivera with the Dragon Breath Smoke Shop said K2 was a big seller in 2013, but they immediately halted its sale when it became illegal.

"I do manage this place in a way where I don't have to worry about the cops coming in and giving me a hard time," said Rivera.

The new law will actually help smoke shops that abide by the law and stopped selling the substance, said Rivera. "It's going to help make the playing field a little more even for me.. If the shops around here aren't selling it," he said.

Law enforcement are hopeful the new law will help their battle against synthetic marijuana and get the people responsible for it behind bars.

"This needs to be taken off the street," said Schaefer. "And this law will help us do that."

Anybody caught with synthetic marijuana could face a class b misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the amount.

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