Bills would outlaw new designer drugs

Legislators and medical experts are concerned about the rising use of synthetic drugs known as “bath salts,” which cause a cocaine-like high – and in rare instances can cause death.

The stimulant, promoted by some YouTube videos and websites, is not to be confused with everyday bathing products. After smoking, inhaling or injecting the designer drug, users may experience euphoria – as well as nausea, seizures, paranoia and other side effects, experts say.

The side effects can be dangerous and even deadly. A woman in New Orleans, for example, had to have an arm amputated after injecting bath salts at a party. Dozens of people across the United States have died after using the stimulant, officials say.

In 2011, the Virginia General Assembly unanimously approved legislation to criminalize the possession or distribution of certain synthetic drugs. However, the narrowly tailored statute left the door open for new combinations of chemicals.

This year, two bills that target the latest ingredients for making synthetic drugs are moving through the General Assembly:

• House Bill 508, sponsored by Delegate T. Scott Garrett, R-Lynchburg. The House unanimously passed the measure on Tuesday.

• Senate Bill 273, by Sen. Ralph K. Smith, R-Roanoke. (It incorporates SB 223, by Sen. Mark R. Herring, D-Leesburg.) The Senate unanimously approved this legislation on Feb. 10; it is now before the House Courts of Justice Committee.

Virginia legislators aren’t the only officials concerned about synthetic stimulants. In October, the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration banned three components of bath salts: mephedrone; 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV); and methylone.

“This action demonstrates our commitment to keeping our streets safe from these and other new and emerging drugs that have decimated families, ruined lives and caused havoc in communities across the country,” said DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart.

“These chemicals pose a direct and significant threat, regardless of how they are marketed, and we will aggressively pursue those who attempt their manufacture and sale.”

The bills before the Virginia General Assembly would add a more generic chemical description of synthetic cannabinoids and stimulants to state law, making new combinations illegal.

“This year’s changes will make it more difficult for those who are making and selling these dangerous drugs to skirt our laws,” Herring said.

In an analysis of SB 273, the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission explained that last year’s legislation targeted:

• Synthetic marijuana, sold under such names as K2 and Spice

• Bath salts and other synthetic stimulants, which are marketed under such names as Mystic, Blue Magic and Cloud 9

Such products sometimes are sold on the Internet, in convenience stories and in “head shops,” officials said.

The 2011 law made MDPV and mephedrone Schedule I drugs in Virginia’s Drug Control Act. Possession of a Schedule I drug is a Class 5 felony, punishable by one to 10 years in prison. Sale of a Schedule I drug can draw a 40-year sentence and $500,000 fine.

“Despite these changes, manufacturers continue to circumvent state law by slightly altering the chemical composition of the synthetic cannabinoids. The reformulated substances are then substituted for the currently banned ones,” the sentencing commission’s analysis said.

It said that last summer, Virginia’s state forensic laboratory tested 468 drug samples received from law enforcement agencies statewide. “Only 101 of these samples contained currently banned substances.”

The DEA has received a growing number of reports about bath salts from hospitals, poison control centers and law enforcement agencies across the nation. The drug can cause panic attacks, depression, suicidal thought, delusions and vomiting, medical experts say. It also can trigger a rapid heart rate, which may lead to a heart attack or stroke.
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A safer way across


A project years in the making is beginning to make life easier for wheelchair-bound residents in Northern Henrico.

The Virginia Department of Transportation is completing a $2-million set of enhancements to the Brook Road corridor in front of St. Joseph's Villa and the Hollybrook Apartments, a community that is home to dozens of disabled residents. > Read more.

New conservation easement creates wooded buffer for Bryan Park

Five years ago, members of the Friends of Bryan Park were facing the apparently inevitable development of the Shirley subdivision in Henrico, adjacent to the forested section of the park near the Nature Center and Environmental Education Area.

As part of the Shirley subdivision, the land had been divided into 14 lots in 1924, but had remained mostly undisturbed through the decades. In 2012, however, developers proposed building 40 modular houses on roughly 6.5 acres, clear-cutting the forest there and creating a highly dense neighborhood tucked into a dead end. > Read more.

Meet the men running for governor


Virginia will elect a new governor this year.

The governor’s position is one of great power and influence, as the current officeholder, Terry McAuliffe, has demonstrated by breaking the record for most vetoes in Virginia history.

However, during the last gubernatorial race in 2014, the voter turnout was less than 42 percent, compared with 72 percent during last year’s presidential election. > Read more.

RISC to address reading, childhood trauma, job training at assembly

On May 1, more than 1,700 community members representing Richmonders Involved to Strengthen our Communities will gather at St. Paul’s Baptist Church (4247 Creighton Road) at 7 p.m. to address elementary reading, childhood trauma and job training in the greater Richmond region. Community members will speak about each issue and proposed solution.

For three years, the organization has sought implementation of a specific literacy program in Henrico County that it believes would help children who struggle with reading. > Read more.

Henrico to begin update of zoning, subdivision ordinances April 26


Henrico County is beginning a comprehensive update of its zoning and subdivision ordinances — the first such effort in six decades — and will introduce the project as part of the April 26 meeting of the Henrico County Planning Commission.

The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. in the Board Room of the Henrico Government Center, 4301 E. Parham Road. The ordinance update project will be featured as the final item on the agenda. Project consultant Clarion Associates will give a presentation, and meeting participants will be able to ask questions and provide comments. > Read more.
Community

Villa’s Flagler Housing wins national NAEH award


St. Joseph's Villa’s Flagler Housing & Homeless Services was one of three entities to earn the National Alliance to End Homelessness' Champion of Change Award. The awards were presented Nov. 17 during a ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

NAEH annually recognizes proven programs and significant achievements in ending child and family homelessness.

Flagler completed its transition from an on-campus shelter to the community-based model of rapid rehousing in 2013, and it was one of the nation's first rapid re-housing service providers to be certified by NAEH. > Read more.

RIR’s Christmas tree lighting rescheduled for Dec. 12


Richmond International Raceway's 13th annual Community Christmas tree lighting has been rescheduled from Dec. 6 to Monday, Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m., due to inclement weather expected on the original date.

Entertainment Dec. 12 will be provided by the Laburnum Elementary School choir and the Henrico High School Mighty Marching Warriors band. Tree decorations crafted by students from Laburnum Elementary School and L. Douglas Wilder Middle School will be on display. Hot chocolate and cookies will be supplied by the Henrico High School football boosters. > Read more.
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Weekend Top 10


For our Top 10 calendar events this weekend, click here! > Read more.

 

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The Henrico Extension Office will offer the workshop “Intensive Vegetable Gardening” from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Along with increasing production, intensive gardening can save time, space, energy and water, and can be used with raised beds and containers. To register, call 501-1920 or visit http://www.henricolibrary.org. Full text

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