Earlier this year, Virginia banned the sale and possession of synthetic marijuana due to its very harmful effects, but state officials have discovered a new trend: the products are now being re-packaged and sold with similar, potentially dangerous chemicals that are not prohibited. The State Crime Commission is weighing options to help prevent clever manufacturers from skirting the law—and avoiding prosecution.
The state lab analyzed recent evidence packaged like the banned synthetic cannabinoids. But Department of Forensic Science Chemistry Program Manager Linda Jackson said it found many more non-prohibited compounds than those that are not.
“And so, it seems that once a compound becomes prohibited, the people who are manufacturing these preparations just take that compound out because it is prohibited, and they now add in another one that is not,” said Jackson.
Commission members discussed whether to add more compounds or perhaps the class of chemicals to the law. But some wondered if the misdemeanor penalty is a deterrent. Senator Tommy Norment said a stiff civil fine on retailers who sell the products might be effective.
“And I’m talking in the neighborhood of $50-or-$100,000 to see whether or not they’re willing to take the business risk of selling a compound like this— recognizing that the penalty would be so monetarily severe that ‘the squeeze ain’t worth the juice,'” said Norment.
The Commission plans to make a recommendation in December.
–Anne Marie Morgan