Concerns about meth mount among W.V. lawmakers

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August 12, 2013

West Virginia

By Phil Sletten

CHARLESTON, West Virginia: State lawmakers are seeking to learn more about the substantial increases in meth lab busts in West Virginia and strategies for slowing the sales of the medicines used to produce meth in the state. Pseudoephedrine, a common cold medicine used by many West Virginians for legitimate symptom relief, may also be used in the creation of the addictive and dangerous substance called methamphetamine, or meth. Meth is perceived to be a growing problem in the state, and officials are debating the effectiveness of a new program designed to track pseudoephedrine and prevent illegal sales volumes.[1][2]

At least 332 meth labs have been busted by police in the first six months of 2013, while law enforcement only seized and cleaned 288 in all of 2012. Delegate Don Perdue (D), who is chair of the Health and Human Resources Committee, has asked West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) to investigate the problem and find ways to combat the creation of meth labs.[3]

Starting in January 2013, the National Precursor Log Exchange went online. This system tracks sales of pseudoephedrine and prevents sales exceeding certain thresholds to an individual person. Although the program is still new, some have touted its success while others have questioned its effectiveness. The West Virginia Retailers Association points out that 9,965 boxes of illegal sales were prevented in the first six months of the year, but law enforcement officials and Delegate Perdue do not see any clear positive impact from the system in the first six months. While 9,965 boxes of pseudoephedrine were blocked from sales, that accounts for only about 3 percent of the 236,033 boxes of pseudoephedrine sold in the state during the same period.[4][5]

Delegate John Ellem (R) has proposed a solution. For the third time, he will introduce legislation that bans the sale of pseudoephedrine in the state without a doctor's prescription. Last year, a similar bill forwarded by Ellem and Delegate Larry Border (R) died after a tie vote in the State Senate.[2]

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