In March 2011, Virginia Governor Bob McDonald signed a law criminalizing
the possession and sale of synthetic marijuana, joining at least 15 other
states in banning the man-made drugs that go by brand names like Spice
and K2. The drugs consist of chemicals that manufacturers spray onto herbs,
spices or other substances that people can smoke. These synthetic drugs
mimic the effects of THC, the intoxicating chemical found in marijuana plants.
Virginia legislators worded the synthetic-marijuana ban broadly to take
as many of these drugs off the streets as possible, and they instituted
severe penalties for synthetic
marijuana possession and distribution. However, the broad language is causing authorities difficulty in convicting
people under the new law.
Understanding the Synthetic Marijuana Law
Virginia legislators knew the problems other states were having with synthetic-marijuana
laws and sought to avoid them. Because other states banned specific chemicals,
for example, drug manufacturers would come up with new chemicals that
are not specifically banned to make the drugs. So, Virginia lawmakers
not only banned specific chemical compounds, but they also included a
catch-all provision outlawing other substances that drug manufacturers
may use to circumvent the ban.
Difficulty Enforcing the Ban
Despite their attempts otherwise, authorities are still having trouble
convicting people of possession and distribution of the prohibited substances
under the new law. If police seize what they believe is synthetic marijuana
and a lab analysis shows a chemical that is not one of the specific substances
banned, the law requires someone from the lab that did the testing to
go to court and testify that the substance is similar to the banned chemicals
and has the same effects on the human body.
In addition to the logistical challenges of lab workers providing testimony
in synthetic marijuana cases, state forensic lab officials cannot even
do what the law requires of them yet. Since the synthetic marijuana chemicals
are new and not widely known, lab workers do not have any comparison samples
for the banned chemicals. Consequently, prosecutors cannot prove their cases.
If you are facing drug charges,
contact an experienced Virginia Beach criminal defense attorney who can help you fight the charges.