- Associated Press - Friday, March 7, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The West Virginia House of Delegate passed legislation Friday to allow county commissions to make drugs used to cook meth available by prescription only and to limit the amount of cold medicines that can be purchased each year

Del. Don Perdue, D-Wayne, who has been a stanch supporter of a statewide prescription-only measure, said he supports offering counties the option. He anticipates counties slowly pushing for prescription-only regulations to protect their citizens. “It will accelerate the process; I can’t oppose that,” he said.

Not only will counties have the authority to regulate pseudoephedrine, pharmacists and pharmaceutical interns may refuse to dispense Sudafed and similar drugs to people who are not regular customers and who have not had at least one prescription filled at the pharmacy.

This measure set forth by Mercer County republicans John Shott and Joe Ellington targets smurfing, where individuals who are not involved in cooking meth purchase the drugs for those who do make it, Shott said.

After more than three hours of debate, the House also accepted the judiciary committee’s decision to limit all consumers across the state to buying 24 grams of cold medicine each year, half what’s currently allowed.

This lower threshold matches the new standard in Kentucky.

Earlier in the evening, the House voted down an amendment by Perdue which would revert back to the statewide prescription-only version easily passed in the Senate on Feb. 18.

Purdue expressed concern over the amount of money pharmaceutical industry lobbyists have spent in opposition to a prescription-only ban. He said he has experienced more lobbyists chasing him down the halls and “robo-calling” than he has seen in is 16 years as a legislator.

The long testimonies given by delegates on the floor Friday evening spoke to the magnitude of the meth problem in West Virginia.

Tom Azinger, R-Wood, talked about the dangers of meth production for law enforcement officers and firefighters who worry about explosions or harmful fumes as they respond to calls.

Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, said she supported a prescription-only bill because of the number of children across the state who have been removed from homes where police discovered meth labs.

Bill Anderson, R-Wood, said meth lab busts, of which there were 533 in the state last year, have depleted the state’s crime victim compensation fund from $60 million down to $2 million. Another amendment proposed by Perdue would replenish this fund through a $1 fee per box of pseudoephedrine. However, it was also rejected.

The Senate is set on Saturday to agree or reject the changes made to the bill.

Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, has said he is considering proposing that the prescription-only requirement kick in if a lower annual threshold isn’t working to decrease meth lab production.

On whether he agrees if counties should be able to implement their own prescription only rules, Kessler said: “It’s a statewide problem. It is not just a county-wide problem.”

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