- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

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April 4

The Herald-Dispatch on painkiller prescription limits:

There is no question that over the past decade, doctors have written too many pain pill prescriptions for our region.

In 2012, West Virginia had as many prescriptions as people.

As we now know, millions of those pills were diverted to addiction, which in turn led thousands of drug users to heroin and record overdose deaths. But the number of prescriptions only tells part of the story. The large volume of doses in many of those prescriptions greatly increased the flood of pain pills coming into our region.

Between 2007-2012, the total was about 780 million pills for West Virginia alone, the Charleston Gazette-Mail has reported.

States and medical professionals are working on a number of fronts to limit the number of pain pill prescriptions, but it also makes sense to restrict the volume of pills in those prescriptions.

Last week, both Ohio and Kentucky took steps to do just that.

In Ohio, new restrictions would bar doctors from prescribing more than seven days of narcotic pain pills for adults and no more than five days for minors. The limits would not apply to cancer or hospice patients, and doctors could prescribe larger quantities for patients suffering from acute pain, if they detail specific reasons.

In Kentucky, the state Senate approved a bill to limit pain pill prescriptions to three days. That proposal also includes exceptions for cancer treatments and end-of-life care, as well as provisions for longer prescriptions for specified reasons.

West Virginia should consider prescription limits as well.

A decade ago, medical professionals often did not fully understand the dangers of these popular new pain killers. Over-prescribing ushered in a new era of drug use and addiction, and with the explosion of heroin use, much of the damage cannot be undone. But states should keep the pressure on to limit opioid prescriptions to only the most-needed situations and prevent as few pills as possible from falling into the wrong hands.

Online:

https://www.herald-dispatch.com

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April 4

The Dominion Post on broadband access:

Where you stand doesn’t always depend on where you sit.

We sit in offices that have instant access to broadband internet via fiber-optic lines.

But we stand for connecting our state to the same digital world we inhabit.

It’s not just simply that processing a credit card sale can be a challenge in some areas.

In many rural areas of the state, there is simply no high-speed internet access.

One group of young entrepreneurs, Generation West Virginia, reports our state ranks 48th in the nation for available broadband internet service, while nearly 550,000 West Virginians don’t have adequate broadband service.

No one needs to remind anyone how harmful this is to our state on so many levels.

And needless to say, if we ever expect to retain more of our young people, we simply won’t without access to broadband.

Last year, all eyes were on the “middle mile” solution, which would have invested state funds for its construction in rural areas of the state.

Though other broadband bills were introduced in the Legislature this year, one has advanced and holds out hope of improvements.

House Bill 3093, summarized as “establishing broadband enhancement and expansion policies” would facilitate growth of high-speed internet.

One key part of solving the puzzle allows for creation of nonprofit internet co-ops where at least 20 or more rural families and businesses cooperated to maximize federal grant funds available for such projects.

That removes the onus from service providers to establish the critical mass that makes it worth their while to provide access to such areas.

Once the infrastructure is in place, these providers need only to run one line out to the network’s main trunk.

This bill would also allow up to the three cities or counties to collaborate for purposes of building a high-speed network.

Furthermore, it outlaws the use of “up to” maximum speed marketing of broadband service. Instead, it requires ISPs to note their minimum data speeds. HB 3093 also bans a tactic used by some companies to slow access to phone poles from competitors working to expand fiber optics.

Most importantly, the bill is revenue neutral. It calls for no new funding from the state, or fees and taxes on communities or residents.

We urge the Senate to pass this bill.

No, it’s not going to move us from worst to first. But it stands to help from where too many sit.

Online:

https://www.dominionpost.com

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April 5

The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register on medical marijuana legislation:

An amendment West Virginia House of Delegates members had to make in a bill to permit medicinal use of marijuana is evidence not enough thought went into drafting the proposal.

House members are debating a SB 386, a bill already approved by the state Senate. Its intent, to allow people with medical problems that might be eased by the active ingredient in marijuana, is good.

But as passed on to the House, SB 386 would have authorized use of medicinal marijuana in plant form. Allowing sale of dried marijuana leaves like those too many Mountain State residents smoke illegally is an open invitation to abuse.

People who think the THC in marijuana may help them with health care challenges such as cancer don’t need to buy the dried, smokable leaves. The substance can be made available in pills or patches.

On Monday, House members continued their consideration of SB 386, after approving an amendment offered by Delegates Mark Zatezalo, R-Hancock, and John Shott, R-Mercer. Their change, approved in a 51-48 vote, would prohibit sale of the dried marijuana plant for medicinal use.

Many law enforcement officers and officials worry about authorizing medicinal use of marijuana, even though 28 other states have done so. They fear abuses of the type that already have occurred with prescription pain pills in West Virginia could lead to an upsurge in illegal use of marijuana.

Most legislators seem to believe that compassion dictates our state allow medicinal use of marijuana. State senators voted 28-6 to approve SB 386. A final vote in the House is likely to result in passage.

But delegates should move very cautiously on the measure, without allowing their concern for West Virginians with serious health problems to overcome their common sense. And, should the measure make it to Gov. Jim Justice’s desk, he, too, should think long and hard about whether it will help more Mountain State residents than it hurts.

At some point, our state should permit medicinal use of THC. But it may be that the current proposal is better as a basis for a thorough examination, perhaps by a special commission, than for a new law.

This is an issue we need to consider - but it is one we simply have to get right.

Online:

https://www.theintelligencer.net


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