Editorial: Lawmakers must push to end scourge of synthetic drugs

It’s long past time for Texas to catch up to neighboring states in finding a way to outlaw the synthetic drugs that have wreaked havoc in too many lives. So we were pleased by news that four members of our area delegation to the Texas Legislature have pledged to work in the coming session to end this scourge.

We aren’t surprised the four — Sen. Kevin Eltife and Reps. Chris Paddie, Travis Clardy and David Simpson — would want to take such steps. East Texas has suffered mightily because of synthetic drugs. We have seen too much violent and erratic behavior tied to consumption of the substances, too many mental and social breakdowns, too many deaths.

And yet this drug was being sold openly in Gregg County and the area under the guise it was legal. As it turns out, it wasn’t, at least not under the rules of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. Three of our area’s major synthetic kingpins — Jeremy Tidwell, his wife Shanna Tidwell and brother Brian Tidwell — now are awaiting trial after having been arrested and indicted on federal drug charges.

The long-planned raids earlier this month that nabbed that trio have had a chilling effect on distribution of synthetics in Gregg County. But we know they still are being sold under the counter in a few places. And if the Legislature does not act decisively the problem is going to return with a vengeance.

The money that can be made in this trade is so substantial some simply won’t be able to pass it up. Unfortunately, greed can be a more powerful motivator than fear, especially when it’s aided and abetted by the lack of any social conscience.

We believe our area legislators are being honest when they say passing synthetic drug legislation is among their top priorities. We know they’ve been hearing from their constituents and working with area mayors, county judges and law officers on the matter for some time. And it certainly helps that Sen. Charles Perry of Lubbock already has introduced a bill that seems to be a good one to get behind.

But we also know unexpected challenges pop up during a session that can derail any sort of proposed legislation, no matter how important it may be. Other than a balanced budget, which the Legislature has to pass according to the state constitution, there are no bills that can be counted on to get through.

With that in mind it behooves all of us who have an interest in getting this legislation passed — and that should be just about anyone in East Texas — to keep an eye on where these efforts stand as the Legislature begins next month.

That means it may be necessary for each of us to call our legislators to continue pushing them in the right direction. We know they’ll be getting that same nudge from local elected officials, law enforcers and others.

We call on the Legislature to move quickly on this matter. Texas must ban this poison now, before another family is broken, another mind destroyed or another young life lost.