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Bill to boost Va. ban on 'spice' working through legislature

The effort in Virginia to outlaw the sale and use of synthetic marijuana is one that some might describe as a cat-and-mouse game. The latest jockeying is currently underway in Richmond. Lawmakers are considering a measure that would expand the list of chemicals considered to be an artificial cannabinoids.

For those who may be unfamiliar with these substances, here's some background. Often referred to as "spice," synthetic marijuana is a product made from plant matter sprayed with man-made chemicals that are similar to the high-producing substance naturally occurring in marijuana.

Lawmakers first banned spice in 2011 and provided a list of chemicals specifically banned. Experts say manufacturers responded by altering them slightly, but enough to remove them from the list. Last year, language in the law was added to make any imitation of spice illegal, but legal experts say the change hasn't prevented successful defense challenges.

Indeed, according to one report, some 20 people faced drug charges related to use of spice between 2011 and 2013. Of those cases, half were dismissed because chemicals involved were not deemed among those considered illegal.

The same report notes that police have sometimes not bothered to even bother to make an arrest in cases involving spice, unless they know that product seized is known to be banned.

In addition to adding more items to the list of banned chemicals, a summary of the new measure under consideration on the Virginia Legislative Information System's website says the bill would make it easier for the state's Board of Pharmacy to add new suspect substances to the list of controlled items.

Where this all may lead is unclear. What is sure is that police will continue to enforce the law and that suspects will face drug charges. They should not face them without the aid of experienced legal counsel.

Source: WVEC-TV, "Spice makers skirt Virginia law," Karen Hopkins, Feb. 10, 2014

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