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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Smither named director of Henrico’s Department of Finance

Henrico County Manager John A. Vithoulkas has appointed Edward N. “Ned” Smither Jr. to serve as director of the Department of Finance, effective July 1.

Smither has served Henrico since 2013 as director of the Accounting Division in Finance. He will succeed Eugene H. Walter, who has delayed his retirement until June 30 to ensure an orderly transition within the department.
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State honors EMS officials this week

There were nearly 1.5 million emergency medical services calls and 4,063 incidents per day in Virginia just last year.

This week, May 21-27, declared as National EMS week by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, recognizes the more than 34,000 EMS personnel and 631 agencies in the state and commends their efforts and commitment to Commonwealth citizens.
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Norfolk man arrested at RIC after TSA catches him with gun

A Norfolk man was arrested at Richmond International Airport May 18 after Transportation Security Administration officers detected a loaded semi-automatic handgun in the traveler’s carry-on bag.

A TSA officer detected the .40 caliber semi-automatic handgun inside the man’s carry-on bag as it passed through the security checkpoint X-ray machine. The handgun was loaded with 13 bullets.
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Police release photo of hoax bomb

Henrico Police have released a photo of the clock that resembled a bomb that led to the arrest of a Richmond woman in Shot Pump earlier this week.

The device, which the woman told police she purchased at a yard sale, was visible in her car at the Whole Foods at West Broad Village May 19, and a passerby called police, fearing it was a real bomb. Police responded as they would have had the device been real, they said, because they weren't sure if it was real or not.
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Henrico school buses with compliance issue to be fixed this summer


The 176 Henrico school buses that have been purchased since March 2011 will be fixed during the summer, Henrico Schools spokesman Andy Jenks told the Citizen. The bus manufacturers will retrofit the buses at no cost to the school division, he said.

The brake interlock device is required on all automatic transmission buses in Virginia that were purchased after March 2011, which is when the device was added to the state Board of Education's requirements for school buses. As many as 4,000 school buses in the state may be affected, according to the Virginia Department of Education.
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May 2017
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The Great Richmond Trivia Bee, sponsored by Union Bank & Trust and benefiting The READ Center, will take place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at The Hippodrome Theatre, 528 N. 2nd St. It’s a team-based competition for people who love words, vocabulary, pop culture, history, literature and showing off how smart they are. Emcee will be ABC8 News Anchor Christina Feerick. Team registration is $500; audience tickets are $20. The READ Center helps adults with low-level literacy develop basic reading and communication skills. For details, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Full text

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