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Posted at 12:15 PM ET, 02/ 7/2011

House votes to ban synthetic marijuana

By Fredrick Kunkle

Virginia took another step toward snuffing out the legal sale of synthetic marijuana in the state when the House of Delegates voted 98-0 on Monday to prohibit the substance known as "spice" or K2.

Law enforcement officials expressed alarm after the substance, which consists of dried herbs sprayed with psychoactive chemicals, began appearing as "herbal incense" in head shops, tobacco shops, convenience stores, gas stations and other venues around the commonwealth in the past few years.

Although treated with THC, which is the active ingredient in marijuana, and intended to simulate the dreamy buzz of pot, spice has been linked to reports of seizures, comas, and other strongly negative psychological reactions such as hallucinations and psychotic-like effects, according to news reports and law enforcement authorities. The substance has been sold in the U.S. since 2006. As of October 2010, thirteen states have criminalized the substance.

The Senate passed its version of the bill, by a vote of 37-0 on Friday. Both chambers' bills would criminalize the possession and sale of the substance, but the Senate's bill has stronger penalties.

Under the bill sponsored by Sen. Mark R. Herring (D-Loudoun), possession of up to one half ounce of synthetic marijuana would be considered a Class 1 misdemeanor that brings up to one year in prison; possession of more than a half ounce would be a Class 5 felony, which carries penalties of up to 10 years in prison.

By Fredrick Kunkle  | February 7, 2011; 12:15 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly 2011, House of Delegates, State Senate  
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It's not treated with "THC" but rather treated with a research chemicals that mimic the effects of THC. The chemicals are nothing like THC, in fact the synthetics are far more dangerous than the natural substance. Get the facts here:

Posted by: johnlenin42 | February 7, 2011 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Just legalise the real thing already.
The world didn't end during the few years synthetic pot has been available, so why worry about the natural, tested for over 40,000 years, real deal?
Legalise and tax!

Posted by: MarilynManson | February 7, 2011 3:52 PM | Report abuse

I agree, decriminalize pot. Come on, the wave is not turning back. A number of cities in California tax it, Virginia could do the same.

Posted by: Nemo24601 | February 7, 2011 7:25 PM | Report abuse

The standard drug test checks for 10 drugs. It is called a 10 panel test. Everyone I know in the transportation industry that smoked pot stopped and started smoking K2 and the other synthetics. The only reason is because it beats the drug test. To catch people on a drug test with K2 will require a 310 panel test, K2 can be morphed that many times. Can the Governor connect those dots? If he cannot he is not fit for office.

Posted by: kevin56 | February 7, 2011 9:15 PM | Report abuse

It's frustrating to have these substances appear, seemingly out of nowhere. But understand that "snuffing out the legal sale" only excites a lucrative, more dangerous, illegal market. The illegality makes the stuff more exciting to kids. But the worst is that turning the quality control over to criminals makes it far more likely to have been cut with more dangerous substances. The least worst solution is to make it safe -- and boring -- by legalizing and regulating it.

Posted by: JohnChase | February 8, 2011 2:16 PM | Report abuse

this K2 stuff is really bad for you. if pot were properly regulated under "legalized" conditions we wouldn't have problems like K2

Posted by: steve6183 | February 10, 2011 2:16 AM | Report abuse

There is no real scientific evidence that the synthetic marijuana is harmful at lower dosages. If one was able to compare the amount sold to the amount of negative effects reported it would give a clearer picture than just saying it is linked to negative effects(compare to the disclaimers of any prescription or OTC drug). It does, after all, effect the same body systems/receptors as marijuana(cannabis). Most of the problems are likely a lack of dosage information.

Ibuprofen, alcohol and smog from diesel trucks are known to be harmful and deadly in large amounts yet we are able to have a legal structure around them that does not hand the market of these things to criminal organizations. The consequences of the legislation have not been well thought out. The free(black) market of pot and fake pot is not going away and market forces are likely to cause unforeseen consequences. Like other fights against illegal drugs, erosion of broad personal freedoms and enrichment of criminal groups are potential even likely unintended consequences.

Posted by: Parker307 | February 10, 2011 5:20 PM | Report abuse

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