Governor Bob McDonnell ceremonially signed nine pieces of legislation today to strengthen penalties for repeat drug dealers and to strengthen other drug laws. The governor was joined by members of the General Assembly, public safety officials, local elected officials and public safety advocates. Among the legislation signed today are measures to increase the mandatory minimum sentences for repeat drug dealers, criminalize the illegal distribution of new synthetic cannabinoids and hallucinogenic bath salts, strengthen procedures to combat the use of methamphetamine and establish a Substance Abuse Recovery Grant Program.
Speaking about the legislation signed today, Governor McDonnell said, "One of the fundamental obligations of government is to ensure the safety of its citizens. Illegal drugs continue to infect our communities. Each year thousands of Virginians suffer from the effects of illegal drugs and addiction. Drug dealers continue to break the laws and peddle their illegal products and poisons. The harmful consequences of drugs extend beyond the individuals who use and distribute them to the detriment of our communities. The legislation signed today continues Virginia's commitment to combating the spread of illegal drugs in the Commonwealth and preserving the safety of our schools and neighborhoods."
Hanover County Sherriff David Hines said, "This legislation, which went into effect at the start of the month, provides law enforcement personnel in Virginia with additional tools to combat illegal drug distribution and addiction. The bills signed today will ultimately make our communities safer, and I thank the governor and members of the General Assembly for their work on this legislative session."
Delegate Scott Garrett, patron of House Bill 508 to criminalize possession and distribution of new synthetic cannabinoids and bath salts said, "Synthetic cannabinoids and bath salts have very recently emerged as extremely dangerous drugs that are all too accessible. House Bill 508 bolsters legislation passed last year by adding newly identified chemical combinations and a more generic chemical description to allow law enforcement officials to better combat the distribution of these drugs."
Bills Signed Today
HB968 (R. Bell)/ SB159 (Obenshain) - Significantly Increases Penalties for Repeat Drug
Adds a mandatory minimum term of confinement of three years for a second or subsequent conviction of manufacturing, selling, giving, distributing, or possessing with intent to distribute a Schedule I or II drug (now five to life) and increases the mandatory minimum term for a third or subsequent conviction from five years to 10 years.
HB718 (Kilgore) - Allows Juveniles to be Charged as Adults for Repeat Drug Dealing
Allows attorneys for the Commonwealth the discretion to have juveniles charged with repeat violations of certain drug offenses transferred to the circuit court for trial as an adult.
HB508 (Garrett) / SB273 (Smith) - Criminalize Possession and Distribution of Synthetic Cannabinoids
Amends provisions added to the Code last year regarding the criminalization of synthetic cannabinoids and chemicals known as "bath salts" to add newly identified chemical combinations. The bill adds a more generic chemical description of synthetic cannabinoids so that new chemical compounds will nevertheless be considered synthetic cannabinoids without the precise chemical compound having to be added to the Code.
HB1161 (Cline) /SB294 (Lucas) - Strengthen Law Enforcement Procedures to Track Sale of Methamphetamine
Requires the Department of State Police to enter into a memorandum of understanding to establish the Commonwealth's participation in a real-time electronic recordkeeping and monitoring system for the nonprescription sale of ephedrine or related compounds. Most pharmacies and retail distributors will be required to enter nonprescription sales of ephedrine or related compounds into the electronic system. The bill retains the existing sales limit of no more than 3.6 grams of ephedrine or related compounds per day per individual retail customer and no more than nine grams per 30-day period. The bill is effective January 1, 2013.
HB1037 (Poindexter) - Requires Defendant Pay Reasonable Costs Associated with Methamphetamine Site Cleanup
Provides that if property owned by a person convicted of manufacture of methamphetamine is damaged, destroyed, or otherwise rendered unusable as a result of such methamphetamine manufacture, the court shall order the person to pay the reasonable estimated or actual expenses associated with cleanup, removal, or repair of the affected property or, if actual or estimated expenses cannot be determined, the sum of $10,000, to the newly created Methamphetamine Cleanup Fund.
HB271 (Peace) - Establishes the Substance Abuse Recovery Support Services Grant Program
Establishes the Substance Abuse Recovery Support Services Grant Program to provide grants to recovery support services providers in the Commonwealth. The bill requires the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to convene a work group of stakeholders to develop criteria for awarding grants.