Prescription only fails in meth bill
CHARLESTON -- After two hours of fiery debate on both sides of the issue, an amendment to make over-the-counter cold and allergy medications used in making methamphetamine prescription only failed, 55-42 with five absent or not voting, in the West Virginia House of Delegates Friday night.
The amendment, sponsored by retired pharmacist Del. Don Perdue, D-Wayne, would have restored Senate Bill 6, which came to the House on a 25-9 vote, to its original form. The bill originally required a prescription for medicines containing pseudoephedrine, edphedrine or phenylpropanolamine, which are all used to produce meth.
The House did adopt, by voice vote, an amendment from Del. Tom Shott, R-Mercer, an amendment that would allow county commissions to enact a prescription-only policy. The language of the amendment allows a commission to enact such a measure, or put it on the ballot for a county-wide vote.
Shott echoed a popular argument against the Senate's bill, saying meth isn't a problem in his county, and he hopes it never will be, but would like to extend the opportunity to counties that are hit harder by the problem to see if a prescription requirement helps.
Perdue applauded the amendment, though not perhaps for the reasons Shott cited.
"It will prove how wrong we were not to adopt a statewide policy," he said. "Eventually, every county will have to do this. It's a slower way, but it's in the right direction."
The House Judiciary Committee's substitute for SB 6 does away with the mandatory prescription, but cuts the amount of pseudoephedrine someone can purchase in a year from 48 grams to 24, and requires a prescription for anyone convicted of a drug crime.
Del. John Ellem, R-Wood, said the committee version of the bill only proves that most everyone in the House of Delegates is for a prescription-only option.
"The judiciary version requires those who have been convicted of a drug crime get a prescription," he said. "That proves that prescription-only works. I think we all agree on the policy, we just have to take it a step further."
Ellem called Shott's amendment "another tacit admission that prescription-only works."
Ironically, two years ago, the House passed a bill almost unanimously that would require a prescription for psuedoephedrine, and it was the Senate that killed the bill, deadlocking in a 17-17 tie.
Nancy Peoples Guthrie, D-Kanawha, said she wished the bill would have passed then.
"I wish the Senate wouldn't have broken our hearts with a 17-17 tie," she said, referring to the divisiveness on display on the House floor. "My what a difference two years makes."
Perdue said his amendment, and the original Senate bill, were not designed to stop the trafficking of meth, but to strike a blow against meth labs, which are highly unstable, sometimes explode, and pose a threat not just to the people making the meth, but to children in the home and first responders who have to clean the labs up.
Guthrie, who's county had the highest amount of meth labs raided in 2013, agreed, and said anyone who wouldn't want to make pseudoephedrine prescription-only was "plum stupid."
"The one group of people I hear the most from are the people of Kanawha County, who feel like prisoners in their own homes because someone down the street is cooking meth," she said. "Once you see a meth lab that has exploded and a neighborhood that has been rattled, I think you would change your mind. If not, you have a heart of stone."
Some delegates also believe that pharmaceutical lobbyists have played too large a role in shaping legislation in West Virginia.
"Every time we have legislation like this, there's a fight. Why is that?" said Del. Jeff Eldridge, D-Lincoln. "It's because that's where the money is. We've got to think about what's right. If it beats us in an election, so be it. I can say I helped a kid. This isn't over a cold, it's over billions of dollars."
Del. Jim Morgan, D-Cabell, said anyone against Perdue's amendment was "anti-law enforcement."
Carol Miller, R-Cabell, gave a passionate argument from the other side.
"We should respect the committee process," Miller said. "We've come up with some good legislation. Addiction doesn't respect any logic. We need to go after the dealers. And I'm insulted to hear that if I'm against this amendment, I'm anti-law enforcement."
Another amendment by Perdue to reduce the amount of pseudoephedrine a person could buy in a year from 24 grams to 12 grams failed.
The bill will be up for third reading Saturday, the last day of the Legislature. If it passes, it will still have to be approved by the Senate because of the changes made to the bill.
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