Last year, Virginia was one of several states to ban the product known as “spice”, marketed as a legal alternative to marijuana. But law enforcement officials are having a difficult time holding anyone accountable under the new law as those companies making the spice have adapted their formulas to get around legal penalties.
The law, as seen here, banned ten different chemical ingredients that were commonly used in “spice”. These ingredients, known as cannabinoids, reportedly mimic marijuana and provide a fast high to those who smoke it. Since the law was passed, spice makers have gone back to the labs and reformulated their products with alternate cannabinoids.
According to the Washington Post, Virginia’s forensic lab tested 468 suspected spice samples between July and August of 2011. Only 101 of those samples contained the banned substances. In June, police in Falls Church raided a tobacco shop and seized 1,700 packets of spice. None of them contained illegal cannabinoids.
Spice was banned because of the suspected dangers of using it. Because it was easy to find and relatively cheap, young people especially were smoking it and getting high. But, many were also experiencing negative side effects like seizures, vomiting, accelerated heart rate, anxiety, and hallucinations. Of course, these effects were only seen in a fraction of the cases, but enough that lawmakers and parents wanted the substance removed completely from the market.
Soon after the law was passed, police made a very public raid on a Hampton Roads head shot. They seized 842 spice packets and they were lined up for the media to take photos of. But no one was ever charged with a crime in this raid because after the packets were tested, we learned there was nothing illegal about them.
The spice law contains language that any substance containing “other” chemicals that mimic these banned cannabinoids can also be prosecuted. But, the state says not enough scientific evidence is available on these newer cannabinoids being used. In other words, charges filed under this aspect of the law wouldn’t likely hold up in criminal court.
Currently, if you are caught in possession of spice that contains one of the banned cannabinoids, you can be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor. If you are accused of selling it, it’s a felony charge. But, there’s a good chance that if you purchased it recently, it won’t fall into those substances banned under the law.
If you are charged with possession of spice or even possession of marijuana or another controlled substance, contact us for help.