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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Community

project:HOMES’ ‘Renew Crew’ helps Henrico citizen


The project:HOMES "Renew Crew" (above) recently assisted an elderly member of the Laurel Presbyterian Church in Henrico by clearing brush, trimming hedges and raking leaves in her yard.

The Renew Crew serves low-income, disabled and elderly homeowners in need of small-scale home repairs such as porch, railing and step repairs, exterior painting, clearing overgrown yards, tearing down outbuildings, wheelchair ramps and other critical repairs and accessibility modifications. > Read more.

Alzheimer’s Walk raises $436,000


More than 2,000 people participated in the the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Richmond Chapter's annual Richmond Walk to End Alzheimer’s Nov. 5 at Markel Plaza in Innsbrook. The event raised more than $436,000 for Alzheimer’s care, support programs and research.

The event is one of three walks that benefit the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Richmond and is held in celebration of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month.

Donations to the Walk to End Alzheimer’s will be accepted through the end of the year and can be made at http://www.alz.org/walk. In total, the three walks this year have raised more than $644,344. > Read more.
Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


The past couple of days haven’t felt like it, but it’s finally December and this weekend is packed with holiday events. Kicking the weekend off is Glorious Christmas Nights’ production of “Finding Christmas” at West End Assembly of God. Gayton Baptist Church’s annual Jazz Nativity starts tonight. Another annual favorite is tomorrow – the tree lighting at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen. In search of Christmas concerts? The Virginians Barbershop Chorus will present its annual Christmas Show tomorrow at the Collegiate School and the Richmond Choral Society will perform Sunday at Trinity Lutheran Church. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

 

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The annual James River Parade of Lights, sponsored by the James River Advisory Council in cooperation with Henrico Recreation and Parks, will start at 4 p.m. Henrico County’s viewing celebration will take place at Osborne Boat Landing, located at 9530 Osborne Tnpk. Gather around the bonfire and enjoy holiday music and activities. A Toy Parade, sponsored by the Battlefield Ruritans, will precede the Parade of Lights at 3 p.m. Admission is free. For details, call 652-1434 or visit http://www.henrico.us/rec. Full text

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