Synthetic marijuana and certain bath salts will soon be outlawed in Virginia.
On Feb. 26, a bill passed in both Virginia's House and Senate creating penalties for possession, distribution of synthetic cannabinoids and bath salts that contain a specific compound.
“Synthetic cannabinoids, also known as synthetic marijuana, K2, spice or Mr. Smiley, are dried herbs sprayed with a chemical compound that, when smoked, creates a high similar to marijuana,” stated in the fiscal impact statement for proposed legislation. Possession of the chemicals would become a Class 1 misdemeanor. Possession with the intent of distributing and manufacturing would be labeled as felonies.
“This year was the first time this issue was introduced as a bill before the body,” said Jane Waddell, legislative assistant to James Shuler (D) of the 12th District.
The bill was introduced by Delegate Scott Garrett (R) and Senator Mark Herring (D). One of the sponsors of the bill has been Delegate Shuler (D) of the 12th District, representing part of Montgomery County.
This bill holds an emergency clause, meaning that it will become law when Gov. Bob McDonnell signs it in April, according to Waddell.
“When this bill is enacted, Virginia will be adding its name to the list of at least 15 states that already have made it illegal to possess or sell synthetic marijuana or cannabinoids,” Waddell said.
Some outspoken opponents of the measure include members of the Tech chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
“Prohibitions of any kind don’t accomplish anything,” said Mark Goldstein, chapter president. Goldstein said SSDP lobbied in Richmond in February to combat the bill.
Goldstein believes the government is not the appropriate organization to determine what enters a human’s body, and an individual decision is vital.
Goldstein stated that regulation, not prohibition, is the key when targeting synthetic marijuana usage.
Goldstein said synthetic marijuana “should stay legal, but be more tightly regulated.”
He stated if synthetic marijuana compounds are banned, this will create a black market for the drugs. Goldstein stated this is also a danger, because the consumers are unsure of what exactly they are purchasing from a vendor on the black market and may receive a drug laced with another more potent drug. This creates an incredible risk to an individual’s health, Goldstein said.
In addition, according to Goldstein several individuals who have been smoking “spice” have been doing so as an alternative to marijuana. He believes this will create an increase in the number of students using marijuana.
“People predisposed to use drugs will find something to get high on,” Goldstein said.