Fairfax County researching ways to crack down on sale of synthetic marijuana

Fairfax County officials are hoping to be able to crack down on synthetic marijuana that is being sold legally in stores in parts of Fairfax County.

Synthetically produced cannabis — which goes by names such as “K2” or “Spice” — chemically approximate the euphoric effects of marijuana, but are considered highly dangerous by drug enforcement officials because they are not regulated. It has been demonstrated in mice that some strains of the synthetic drug can lead to paralysis, lowered body temperature and a temporary inability to feel pain through nerve receptors, according to the DEA.

The drugs are so new they only were classified as illegal in Virginia in 2011.

But new forms of the synthetic drug are still being sold legally in Fairfax County because the 2011 Virginia law bans only specific chemical compositions and manufacturers are able to skirt the law and change these compositions in such a way as to continue to create the same product legally.

“When I saw the Virginia law regulating this drug, it read like a chemistry book,” said Fairfax County supervisor Jeff McKay, who represents the Lee district. “It went way over my head.”

McKay said he first became interested in banning the sale of the drug when Fairfax County Police officers brought him an anonymous letter they had received which highlights its harmful effects and names establishments on Kings Highway and Richmond Highway in which it is being sold.

“People wait outside of these stores each and every morning that they open, to get their fixes,” the letter reads. “I have heard they had to replace their windows with bulletproof glass because of people wanting it in the middle of the night.”

McKay called the letter eye-opening.

“I don’t generally give much credence to anonymous letters, but police officers brought this to me and said that most of what is in this letter is good information.” Last week, McKay brought the letter to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, who have now asked staff to provide a report.

“There are locations in my district selling this drug and it seems to be very inexpensive, available and addictive,” said McKay. “Fairfax County spends significant amounts of money helping people with addiction, so to have establishments that are licensed by the county blatantly selling addictive drugs seems very dangerous and counterproductive.”

McKay said he hopes that county officials can come up with a way to use existing authority to combat the issue, but says he wants to act quickly. “If it were up to me I would just immediately ban the sale of it, start enforcing it and let someone take us to court over it. That would at least get it off our streets. I would rather go to court than do nothing about it, but obviously that may not be the best way to proceed. If a legislative fix is the answer, then I want to get that dialog started.” Changes to the existing Virginia statute banning certain chemical compositions of the synthetic drug will become law on July 1. In April, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed off on changes that will expand the list of banned chemical compositions, as well as changes that will enable legislators to ban newly-created ones faster. The new changes will also increases penalties and sentencing guidelines for manufacturers; from a current maximum of 5 years imprisonment to a new maximum of 10 years.

gmacdonald@fairfaxtimes.com

Source: Fairfax Times

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http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/11/21/when-synthetic-pot-kill...

"If you’re a truck driver, you could lose your license if you test positive for drugs. What do you do if you want to get stoned? You use synthetic cannabinoids,” he says. Still, Kleiman says it’s the criminalization of real marijuana that’s fueling the designer drug fire. Legalized marijuana, he explains, would obliterate the market for synthetic marijuana—making fake pot’s ability to bypass drug tests a moot point. “This is a pure side effect of prohibition,” Kleiman says. “It may not be a good enough reason for getting rid of it, but it’s certainly a reason.”