Assembly 2011: Synthetic marijuana and redistricting
A bipartisan group of legislators is pushing to criminalize a new drug most commonly referred to as synthetic marijuana ... and Governor Bob McDonnell’s independent bipartisan redistricting commission held its first meeting yesterday. Craig Carper reports.
The substance known as synthetic marijuana, also called “spice” or K2, is now sold legally in stores as incense and is manufactured by spraying synthetic chemicals onto catnip or hogwarts.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are working hard to get the product pulled from store shelves and criminalize possession of it.
Republican Delegate Scott Garrett of Lynchburg is patron of the House legislation.
Garrett: This is used as an alternative to illegal drugs, in order to circumvent the laws of our land. There is documented evidence of very serious medical consequences. These are very bad bio-organic chemicals. There are folks anywhere from nausea and vomiting in our emergency rooms to severe paranoia, agitation and even seizure disorders. There are significant cardiac rapid heart rate issues that have been raised in our emergency rooms. Frankly, there are no manufacturing standards for these chemicals that are being produced. There is anywhere from three to twenty times potencies of the way that they act in our body.
These drugs, ladies and gentlemen, are readily available; you can go to just about any tobacco shop, gas station, service centers and acquire these. My eight-year-old son could walk in and acquire these drugs; there's no standard in that regard. These are very, very difficult to test. They are essentially odorless. It’s why they are being used as a designer drug, particularly in those folks that have urine tests and so forth, our athletes in our schools and so forth. The metabolites, or the breakdown products of these chemicals, are not picked up by normal tests. There are ways to test them, much like we test for powders and explosives in the airports and so forth, a unique process, but that is not readily available, particularly in our schools. These compounds are not structurally similar to tetrahydrocanabidol, which is the active ingredient, (THC) in marijuana, and I would like to stress that our bill is called synthetic marijuana but it probably could be more appropriately be called imitation controlled substances. We’ve had folks that have called in concern that we’re going to outlaw medical marijuana. As you know, marijuana is statutorily allowed for me as a physician, I'm a general surgeron in Lynchburg, to prescribe for two reasons; cancer and glaucoma. This is not going to ban our physicians from being able to prescribe medical marijuana.
The House version of the bill passed by a unanimous bipartisan vote yesterday through the Courts of Justice committee and it's expected a speedy passage before the full chamber later this week. After the likely passage of the Senate version, the two chambers will have to determine what penalties should be assigned for possession. The House proposal currently makes it a schedule 1 narcotic, while the Senate offers similar penalties to those for marijuana.
Also yesterday, Governor Bob McDonnell spoke at the first meeting of his independent bipartisan redistricting commission, which is tasked with reviewing redistricting plans submitted by the public or by universities, as well as providing their own recommendations to the state legislature on how they should redraw their state legislative and congressional boundaries when they reconvene this spring.
The Governor told the commission to use the guidelines laid out by state and federal law when offering their recommendations and avoid using other criteria.
McDonnell: Those kinds of considerations that are either inherently political, or a factor such as increasing competitiveness among the districts, I would suggest to you, is not an appropriate consideration for your panel and I'm afraid if you use those or other considerations, it may actually lessen the credibility of your work and reduce the reliance that the General Assembly might place upon the work.
The commission will work to produce recommendations for the legislature by April 1st.
The Governor is expected to ask the General Assembly back for a special redistricting session upon adjournment of the regularly scheduled veto session in mid-April. After the boundaries are set, primaries will then be held on August 23rd.
Craig Carper, WCVE News, Capitol Square