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McDonnell signs 'spice' bill
BY CHELYEN DAVIS
As of Wednesday, it's illegal in Virginia to use or sell "spice," also known as "K2" or "synthetic marijuana."
Gov. Bob McDonnell signed a bill outlawing the drug, which is made by spraying chemicals on herbs. Those are then sold--legally, until now--as incense. Smoking it gives users a high similar to marijuana, but some have reported dangerous side effects.
The bill also bans chemicals for use in a drug known as "bath salts."
The bill has an emergency clause, meaning it went into effect as soon as McDonnell signed it. Most bills don't take effect until July 1 the year they're passed.
Numerous legislators proposed bills in the 2011 session to ban the drug, including local state Sen. Edd Houck, D-Spotsylvania, and Sen. Richard Stuart, R-Stafford.
Their bills were rolled into one from Sen. Mark Herring, D-Leesburg.
Legislators said "spice" was legal only because it was so new that drug laws hadn't caught up to it.
Last fall, staff for the Virginia Crime Commission reported that the American Association of Poison Control Centers had received more than 1,800 calls about synthetic marijuana in 2010. Seventy of those were in Virginia. Almost all of those calls came in since June, suggesting that the problem is growing.
While legislators wrangled with how to address the issue, the bill they eventually passed makes it a misdemeanor to use synthetic marijuana and a felony to manufacture or distribute it.
Chelyen Davis: 804/343-2245