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HomeNewsArchivesV.I. Legislature Passes Ban on Bath Salts and ‘Synthetic Marijuana’

V.I. Legislature Passes Ban on Bath Salts and ‘Synthetic Marijuana’

The V.I. Legislature passed legislation prohibiting the family of chemicals used to make intoxicants sold over the counter as bath salts and so-called "synthetic marijuana” during legislative session Tuesday.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Sammuel Sanes, gives a long list of chemical terms for the intoxicating components that are used in various combinations to create ostensibly legal intoxicants that can be sold over the counter. The same chemicals are sold as powdered "bath salts" and as a kind of scented potpourri marketed as "synthetic marijuana."

Several senators objected the bill was highly technical and needed to be heard in committee to allow expert testimony so senators could better understand what the chemicals are, what they do and what the law would do, before voting to enact legislation.

Sen. Tregenza Roach said he saw nothing he objected to in the bill, but said he needed more information to indicate it was a serious, pressing threat, before rushing to make law. Roach said police had testified during committee hearings that there had not been any incidents directly attributable to these new drugs, suggesting it may not be so time-sensitive as to justify skipping committee hearings.

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Sanes responded that there have been cases and that since the chemicals are being sold over the counter right now, it would be safer to pass a ban now.

"There is no such thing as a perfect bill," Sanes said. "What I am trying to do is make this illegal at this time, as soon as possible, and later on come back and tweak it," he said.

"I personally know of one individual who unfortunately has seen his son affected," Sanes said. "The fact is, you can go into certain businesses right now, ask for it and it will be sold to you," he said.

Sanes and Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen had a blow-up during the reading of the bill.

As Sanes and other senators struggled to pronounce multiple paragraphs of convoluted chemical names such as "1-pentyl-3-(1-naphthoyl)indole" and "2-[1R,3S)-3-hydroxycyclohexyl]-5-(2-methyloctan-2-yl)phenol)," Hansen offered to read the bill several times, saying her "specialty is phonics."

Sanes said Sen. Craig Barshinger, a member of the majority with Sanes, had a scientific background and asked him to read the bill. Hansen then stormed out of the room, shouting at Sanes: "Where is your blackness?"

Sanes took offense at the suggestion he was betraying people of color by asking a white senator to read the bill and said he chose Barshinger because Barshinger was a member of the majority and had a scientific background.

Sanes and Hansen argued for several minutes. Afterward, Sanes apologized for getting angry and said he knew Hansen "didn’t mean it like that." Hansen then reiterated that she did, in fact, mean to say Sanes was racist against people of color such as himself and that he chose Barshinger instead of her because Barshinger is white and she is not.

Voting to approve the bill banning bath salts were Barshinger, Sanes, Sens. Judi Buckley, Diane Capehart, Donald Cole, Clifford Graham, Myron Jackson, Shawn-Michael Malone and Clarence Payne. Voting nay were Hansen, Roach, Sens. Terrence "Positive" Nelson and Janette Millin Young. Sens. Kenneth Gittens and Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O’Reilly were absent.

The Legislature also passed legislation to postpone for one year the implementation of a law mandating that school years start earlier and end before Christmas.

In May 2012, the V.I. Legislature passed a measure sponsored by former Sen. Neville James mandating the school year shall begin no later than the second Tuesday after the second Monday in August and end no later than the first Friday in June, so long as the calendar includes at least 1,080 hours of instruction and that the first semester ends by Dec. 23.

The law required the change be implemented no later than the 2013-14 school year. With teachers unions vigorously opposed and the school system struggling with layoffs, retirements and several rounds of budget cuts, the Education Department had been struggling to finalize its calendar for next year. (See related links below)

The Legislature also special ordered and passed legislation:
– from Barshinger to establish "Great Outdoors Month" in the U.S. Virgin Islands in June;
– from Gittens to increase the administrative fee for probationary services from $200 to $500 to meet the rising cost of those services;
– from Payne, Young, Graham and several cosponsors petitioning the U.S. Congress to pass pending legislation sponsored by Delegate Donna Christensen that would authorize a $100 million grant to the V.I. Water and Power Authority to subsidize V.I. power bills and help convert its plants to cheaper liquefied natural gas and petroleum gas;
– from Graham, changing the composition of the Government Employee Retirement Services governing board to include government retirees;
– from Young, requiring the commissioner of Agriculture to appoint a marketing director to better promote V.I. agriculture;
– from Malone and several cosponsors to shield businesses who sell alcohol to adults of drinking age from liability for the actions of the drinker unless the seller has reason to believe the buyer is addicted to alcohol;
– from Graham, giving GERS power to hire retired government employees to work on GERS’ conversion to digital record keeping and allow them to receive both their government retirement pension and their new government salary at the same time.

The measures will all now go to the governor to sign into law or veto in part or entirely.

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The V.I. Legislature passed legislation prohibiting the family of chemicals used to make intoxicants sold over the counter as bath salts and so-called "synthetic marijuana” during legislative session Tuesday.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Sammuel Sanes, gives a long list of chemical terms for the intoxicating components that are used in various combinations to create ostensibly legal intoxicants that can be sold over the counter. The same chemicals are sold as powdered "bath salts" and as a kind of scented potpourri marketed as "synthetic marijuana."

Several senators objected the bill was highly technical and needed to be heard in committee to allow expert testimony so senators could better understand what the chemicals are, what they do and what the law would do, before voting to enact legislation.

Sen. Tregenza Roach said he saw nothing he objected to in the bill, but said he needed more information to indicate it was a serious, pressing threat, before rushing to make law. Roach said police had testified during committee hearings that there had not been any incidents directly attributable to these new drugs, suggesting it may not be so time-sensitive as to justify skipping committee hearings.

Sanes responded that there have been cases and that since the chemicals are being sold over the counter right now, it would be safer to pass a ban now.

"There is no such thing as a perfect bill," Sanes said. "What I am trying to do is make this illegal at this time, as soon as possible, and later on come back and tweak it," he said.

"I personally know of one individual who unfortunately has seen his son affected," Sanes said. "The fact is, you can go into certain businesses right now, ask for it and it will be sold to you," he said.

Sanes and Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen had a blow-up during the reading of the bill.

As Sanes and other senators struggled to pronounce multiple paragraphs of convoluted chemical names such as "1-pentyl-3-(1-naphthoyl)indole" and "2-[1R,3S)-3-hydroxycyclohexyl]-5-(2-methyloctan-2-yl)phenol)," Hansen offered to read the bill several times, saying her "specialty is phonics."

Sanes said Sen. Craig Barshinger, a member of the majority with Sanes, had a scientific background and asked him to read the bill. Hansen then stormed out of the room, shouting at Sanes: "Where is your blackness?"

Sanes took offense at the suggestion he was betraying people of color by asking a white senator to read the bill and said he chose Barshinger because Barshinger was a member of the majority and had a scientific background.

Sanes and Hansen argued for several minutes. Afterward, Sanes apologized for getting angry and said he knew Hansen "didn't mean it like that." Hansen then reiterated that she did, in fact, mean to say Sanes was racist against people of color such as himself and that he chose Barshinger instead of her because Barshinger is white and she is not.

Voting to approve the bill banning bath salts were Barshinger, Sanes, Sens. Judi Buckley, Diane Capehart, Donald Cole, Clifford Graham, Myron Jackson, Shawn-Michael Malone and Clarence Payne. Voting nay were Hansen, Roach, Sens. Terrence "Positive" Nelson and Janette Millin Young. Sens. Kenneth Gittens and Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O'Reilly were absent.

The Legislature also passed legislation to postpone for one year the implementation of a law mandating that school years start earlier and end before Christmas.

In May 2012, the V.I. Legislature passed a measure sponsored by former Sen. Neville James mandating the school year shall begin no later than the second Tuesday after the second Monday in August and end no later than the first Friday in June, so long as the calendar includes at least 1,080 hours of instruction and that the first semester ends by Dec. 23.

The law required the change be implemented no later than the 2013-14 school year. With teachers unions vigorously opposed and the school system struggling with layoffs, retirements and several rounds of budget cuts, the Education Department had been struggling to finalize its calendar for next year. (See related links below)

The Legislature also special ordered and passed legislation:
- from Barshinger to establish "Great Outdoors Month" in the U.S. Virgin Islands in June;
- from Gittens to increase the administrative fee for probationary services from $200 to $500 to meet the rising cost of those services;
- from Payne, Young, Graham and several cosponsors petitioning the U.S. Congress to pass pending legislation sponsored by Delegate Donna Christensen that would authorize a $100 million grant to the V.I. Water and Power Authority to subsidize V.I. power bills and help convert its plants to cheaper liquefied natural gas and petroleum gas;
- from Graham, changing the composition of the Government Employee Retirement Services governing board to include government retirees;
- from Young, requiring the commissioner of Agriculture to appoint a marketing director to better promote V.I. agriculture;
- from Malone and several cosponsors to shield businesses who sell alcohol to adults of drinking age from liability for the actions of the drinker unless the seller has reason to believe the buyer is addicted to alcohol;
- from Graham, giving GERS power to hire retired government employees to work on GERS' conversion to digital record keeping and allow them to receive both their government retirement pension and their new government salary at the same time.

The measures will all now go to the governor to sign into law or veto in part or entirely.