Richmond - State senator Mark Herring’s (D-eastern Loudoun) legislation to criminalize the sale and possession of synthetic marijuana, commonly referred to by such street names as “Spice” and “K2”, passed the General Assembly on Feb. 26 unanimously.
Because the bill contains a so-called “Emergency Clause,” it can become law immediately if and when signed by Gov. Bob McDonnell (R).
“I am pleased that Virginia will now join the growing number of states that have taken action to protect our citizens, particularly our young people, from these dangerous designer drugs,” Herring stated. “I am particularly grateful to all of the members of the General Assembly, members of both parties in both houses, who worked diligently with me on this important public safety issue.”
“The bill has significantly harsher penalties for the sale and distribution of these harmful compounds,” Herring continued. “Those who manufacture and sell these products know full well the purpose for which they will be used and should bear significant responsibility for the harm they are causing.”
The substance has drawn the attention of law enforcement and parents in the past year as its use has grown exponentially, according to federal statistics, causing severe health reactions - including attempted suicides, extremely elevated heart rate/blood pressure, comas, seizures, and anxiety attacks.
The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported over 1,500 overdoses nationally resulting from the use of synthetic marijuana in just the first nine months of last year, and the problem has grown significantly worse, particularly in Virginia, since then.
Herring started his effort to ban the substance last fall, before the General Assembly met for its 2011 session.
“Virginia will continue to face challenges in dealing with the emerging trend toward the use of designer drugs, and it is my hope that moving forward the General Assembly will take a comprehensive look at how best to address this issue,” Herring added.
The General Assembly is in the last hours of its 2011 session and is expected to adjourn Feb. 27 or 28. McDonnell will then review all bills adopted by the legislature and decide which ones to sign into law and which ones he will veto.
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