NEW: Obenshain's 'Emerging Drugs' Bill Passes
Sen. Mark Obenshain's bill to help combat synthetic drugs cleared the Virginia General Assembly today. If signed into law by the governor, the legislation will allow law enforcement to stay one step ahead of the bad guys, Obenshain said.
Since 2011, legislators have been working to impose stricter penalties for those that manufacture and distribute synthetic drugs, including bath salts. However, distributors have been making changes to the chemical compounds to skirt state laws.
“The narcotics landscape has changed drastically in recent years; it’s time for the law to change with it,” said Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg. “Emerging and designer drugs are becoming increasingly common, and both buyers and sellers often perceive them as ‘legal’ alternatives to illicit drugs. Tragically, these synthetic drugs are often significantly more hazardous than their analogues, and their availability and effects makes them a serious hazard to our communities.”
The legislation puts synthetic drugs in Schedule 1 of the Drug Control Act, consistent with federal law. It would make distribution and manufacture of synthetic drugs a Class 5 felony. Possession would remain a Class 1 misdemeanor.
The bill also provides that analog drugs, drugs that have a chemical makeup similar to the banned drug, are subject to the same penalties.
“Drug manufacturers are constantly adjusting their compounds to stay one step ahead of the law,” said Obenshain. “This bill will ensure that law enforcement can crack down on these dangerous drugs.”