marijuana_3.jpgFORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — Businesses selling synthetic drugs that give a marijuana-like high would be classified as drug houses and subject to stricter enforcement under an ordinance expected to be approved by Fort Wayne's City Council.

Under the ordinance, which faces a final vote in the coming week, property owners who don't work to evict tenants using the property for suspected drug activity could be held liable and face criminal charges. Citations could range from a fine of up to $500 to an arrest.

The move comes as city officials say local and state efforts to ban the substance known as K2 or spice have been ineffective.

The council in 2010 passed an ordinance giving police the ability to levy fines up to $2,500 for possession of synthetic drugs, The Journal Gazette reported ( State lawmakers last year banned the marijuana-like drugs, but manufacturers quickly found a loophole by slightly altering the ingredients.

A tougher bill signed into law by Gov. Mitch Daniels in March included a provision that could cost retailers their business licenses for a year if they're caught selling the synthetic drugs as part of a retail outlet's normal business.

Despite the law, Fort Wayne drug house coordinator Ken Scheibenberger said the drugs are still sold at several small neighborhood convenience stores using passwords or just outside the building.

“It is a real problem that we need to deal with,” he said.

Scheibenberger, a former Allen Superior Court judge, said the city's drug house rules dealt only with dwellings, but the council ordinance will amend those rules to include all real estate.

The drug house law establishes a process for notifying a property owner when a tenant is using the property for suspected drug use. The law change will allow the same to be done for businesses.

“The goal behind this is to stop the proliferation of drugs,” said Councilman Geoff Paddock.