CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey won't tell the House of Delegates' health committee whether he'll investigate how much of a cold medication is being diverted to manufacture methamphetamine.
In a letter, Morrisey said he couldn't respond to Delegate Don Perdue's request because under state law the Attorney General's Office can't disclose any "formal investigations."
"He won't say if he's doing anything," said Perdue, D-Wayne, who heads the House Health and Human Resources Committee.
So Perdue has revised his request. On Monday, he asked Morrisey to start an "inquiry" -- instead of an investigation -- into the sales of pseudoephedrine, a key meth-making ingredient, and determine the percentage of the cold medicine being diverted for illegal meth production.
Law enforcement agencies across the state have seized more than 300 illegal meth labs this year, already more than were found in all of 2012.
"It's an issue we need to look at through the right side of the binoculars," Perdue said. "And it's my belief that Attorney General Morrisey has the binoculars."
Morrisey, who received Perdue's initial letter July 10, has declined to answer any questions about the lawmaker's request. Morrisey and his office spokeswoman didn't respond to a request for comment Monday. He sent his letter to Perdue on Wednesday.
"I had been waiting and waiting and waiting," Perdue said. "It seems kind of awkward to me to wait that long, then have someone say, 'No' or 'I won't tell you,'" Perdue said.
Since taking office in January, Morrisey has started numerous inquiries on everything from abortion regulation to West Virginia University's sports media rights contract. However, his critics have questioned whether Morrisey will go after the pharmaceutical industry.
Morrisey, a former Washington, D.C., lobbyist for drug companies, received campaign contributions from pharmaceutical executives and political action committees across the U.S. His wife, Denise Henry, is a lobbyist for Cardinal Health, the nation's second-largest drug distributor. Morrisey defeated longtime Attorney General Darrell McGraw in the November election.
Perdue has cited law enforcement officers' statements that as much as 80 percent of pseudoephedrine is being diverted to make meth in clandestine labs. Perdue said drug makers and retail pharmacies "certainly must know" what's going on.
In July, Perdue asked Morrisey to take legal action against any drug companies "responsible for engaging in that activity in the knowledge that such sales accrues to the benefit of malefactors," according to his letter to the attorney general.
Last week, Morrisey wrote back that he has asked state lawmakers to work with him to develop a better system for coordinating drug case prosecutions. He said he also hired lawyers to help him develop a "comprehensive plan" to address the "plague of prescription and non-prescription drug abuse."