By Pamela Pritt
The West Virginia Senate passed legislation Tuesday that would make pseudoephedrine products prescription-only. The measure passed 25-9, mostly along party lines.
The common ingredient in many cold- and sinus-relief medications is also a critical component of methamphetamine, which are “cooked” in labs or in a “shake and bake” method in 2-liter soda bottles. Drug arrests for meth have increased in the last few years, from 229 in 2011 to 533 last year. Meth arrests have occurred in 45 of the state’s 55 counties.
“Meth has become a scourge in our society,” said chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha. “This is the action we need to take to eradicate these labs.
“It’s imperative we pass a bill like this,” he said.
Palumbo acknowledged that the law will not mean a meth-free state.
Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, said he opposed the bill because it turned over control to the medical community.
“The No. 1 problem with drugs in West Virginia is prescription pain medication,” Barnes said. “It certainly doesn’t take a great deal of thought to realize the No. 1 problem is already in the hands of the medical community, we may not be solving the meth problem by turning it over to the medical community.”
The bill now carries an amendment that allows one possession offense of fewer than 3.6 grams to be expunged from a criminal record, as long as the drug is being used for its intended purpose.
Sen. Evan Jenkins, R-Cabell, who offered a similar amendment Monday, said he “appreciated the effort,” but was puzzled why this amendment is more acceptable than his.
“Why couldn’t we allow people to get out of it without having to be charged in the first place?” Jenkins asked.
Palumbo said Jenkins‘ amendment would allow multiple possessions.
“This allows one shot. Beyond that, you’re on notice,” Palumbo said.
“Clearly, we raised an issue yesterday that caused concern,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins voted in favor of the bill as amended, while Democrat Truman Chafin, D-Mingo, voted nay.
The bill now will move to the House of Delegates.