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Meth prescription bill elicits mixed views

Jan. 31, 2014 @ 12:00 AM

CHARLESTON -- Delegate Kelli Soboyna, R-Cabell, opposes legislation to require a prescription for cold medications containing pseudoephedrine -- the key ingredient in making meth -- because she doesn't consider it a statewide problem.

"It's a Kanawha County issue," she told the Charleston Gazette. "I want to help Kanawha County, but look at all these counties that have no meth labs."

Methamphetamine lab raids jumped 85 percent statewide in 2013 as police discovered the illegal drug-making operations in 45 of the state's 55 counties. These have resulted in the seizure of 533 meth labs, compared with 288 in 2012, according to a report from the West Virginia State Police.

Kanawha County led the state with 159 meth lab seizures, followed by 36 in Wood County, 28 in Putnam County, 27 in Upshur County, 21 in Mason County, 20 in Cabell County and 19 in Greenbrier County.

"It's an epidemic, a cancer and a scourge on this state," said Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper during an interview with the Charleston Gazette. "And I believe the numbers are much higher.

Delegate John Ellem, R-Wood, is just as adamant in his desire to support legislation that would require a prescription for cold medications containing pseudoephedrine. The proposed bill would exempt "tamper resistant" pseudoephedrine products that can't easily be converted to meth.

"Not only are people from Wood County buying from our stores, but even people from as far away as Kanawha County are coming up here, seeking more avenues for 'smurfing' and coming up to buy the product," Ellem said, referring to people hired by meth makers to buy pseudoephedrine for them.

He said meth labs frequently cause fires in his county.

"It seems like we average about one lab every week," Ellem told the Gazette, "and, sometimes two a week."

Delegate Don Perdue, D-Wayne, is a pharmacist and following Thursday's brief floor session in the House of Delegates he said there is "no question there are enforcement issues" in dealing with the issue of drug addiction.

A state law passed in 2012 requires statewide electronic tracking of pseudoephedrine and limits an individual's purchase of the cold medication to about three boxes a month and 20 boxes a year.

Sen. Robert Plymale, D-Wayne, is one of five sponsors of Senate Bill 6, which has the title of "Methamphetamine Lab Eradication Act" and would require a prescription for the purchase of most medications containing pseudoephedrine. It was introduced the opening day of the session, Jan. 8, and was referred to the Senate Committee on Health and Human Resources with a second reference to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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