Madison (WQOW) -- A state lawmaker is circulating a bill that would automatically make current and newly developed synthetic opiates illegal in Wisconsin.
A synthetic drug called U-47700 is growing an increasingly popular and is a powerful opioid that was linked to more than 50 deaths nationwide last year.
Two of of those deaths occurred in Racine County last summer.
U-47700 was developed in the 1970s for research purposes and has no medical value, but it is now being used recreationally. But unlike commonly abused opioids such as heroin and fetanyl, this drug is perfectly legal to sell and possess. It is also readily available online and packs an astounding punch - eight times more potent than morphine.
Law enforcement agents say the drug is being bought online and then sold on the streets.
Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc) said his bill would make U-47700 - and any newly developed synthetic opiates - automatically illegal.
Law enforcement agencies have had a tough time keeping up with synthetic opiates, because people can change one compound in an illegal drug to technically make it a new substance - giving it legal status.
But Rep. Kleefisch said his bill would help law enforcement keep ahead of that curve.
"This is at the very least going to give law enforcement the chance to detain the dealers," said Rep. Kleefisch.