AUSTIN, Texas — Austin Police Department patrol officers and members of the Organized Crime Narcotics Conspiracy Unit are continuing to target synthetic cannabinoid, or K2, dealers.

APD said Friday that an investigation that started in December 2018 recently resulted in 16 warrants being issued for K2 dealers following lab confirmation of the drugs.

While awaiting lab results from that investigation, the APD Organized Crime Narcotics Team followed up on information provided by downtown APD patrol officers earlier this summer and began an investigation into large-scale sales of K2. Detectives identified a suspect with ties to Houston, a known source for K2, who was staying at a hotel near downtown. Further investigation linked that suspect to a partner who assisted with K2 distribution.

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On June 25, members of the Narcotics Conspiracy Team set up surveillance and caught one of the suspects selling K2 "sticks" to multiple people downtown. The suspect was detained and found to be in possession of several bags of K2. Detectives executed search warrants on two hotel rooms where they found a large amount of additional K2, untreated damiana leaf (the leaf upon which the intoxicant is sprayed), packaging, flavoring, mixing equipment, scales and shipping forms from China.

APD said the evidence indicates the suspects are receiving large amounts of raw materials to manufacture, package and distribute K2 in the Austin area.

K2 seizure
Austin Police Department

This investigation is ongoing and is a joint effort between the APD, the Austin DEA Office and Houston Police Department Narcotics. Anyone with any information about these cases or similar cases is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 512-472-TIPS or text "Tip 103" and your message to CRIMES.

This isn't the first incident of large-scale synthetic cannabinoid distribution in Austin in recent years. Back in 2017, Austin first responders received nearly 400 emergency calls in one month tied to synthetic cannabinoids. In 2018, Austin-Travis County EMS treated 30 K2 patients within 24 hours. And just earlier this year, APD was looking for six people who had federal warrants out for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute K2.

WATCH: The fight against synthetic drugs

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