Pubdate: Mon, 04 Feb 2008
Source: Daily News-Record, The (VA)
Copyright: 2008 The Daily News-Record
Author: Jeff Mellott


HARRISONBURG - The Virginia Senate on Friday passed  legislation 
sponsored by Sen. Mark Obenshain that would  stiffen penalties for 
the manufacturing, possession,  use and distribution of methamphetamine.

The Harrisonburg Republican said he introduced the  legislation to 
bring penalties for meth in line with  those for cocaine.

Over on the House of Delegates' side of the General  Assembly, the 
Courts of Justice Committee passed an  identical bill introduced by 
Del. Todd Gilbert,  R-Woodstock.

Gilbert's bill now goes to the House Appropriations Committee.

Mandatory Time

The meth bills promise a minimum sentence of three  years for 
offenses involving 28 grams - the equivalent  of one ounce - or more. 
Offenses involving 227 grams or  more would require a minimum of five 
years in prison,  according to the proposed legislation.

Additionally, such sentences could not be served  concurrently with 
sentences for other offenses,  according to the bills.

Meth, Coke Seizures Vary

Methamphetamine has been a problem in the Central  Valley for years, 
but recently passed laws designed to  cut back on the manufacturing 
of the drug has helped,  officials say.

The bills sponsored by Obenshain and Gilbert aim to  build on that 
progress, lawmakers and law-enforcement  officials say.

Recently released statistics by the RUSH Drug Task  Force show a 
reduction in the amount of meth seized  between 2006 and 2007, 
although it's not clear whether  the new laws or other factors 
accounted for the reduced  amounts.

In 2007, the task force seized 8.1 pounds of meth in  Harrisonburg 
and Rockingham County, compared to 13.5  pounds of meth the previous 
year, according to RUSH  officials.

The amount of cocaine and crack seized by the task  force rose in the 
past two years, the task force  reported.

In 2007, RUSH operatives seized 1.3 pounds of cocaine  and the same 
amount of crack, according to task force  statistics.

In 2006, the task force seized a little more than 1  pound of cocaine 
and less than a pound of crack,  according to RUSH figures.
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