CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A member of a Kanawha County drug task force alleges that the group was "stacked" with supporters of legislation that would require a prescription for a common cold medication that's used to make illegal methamphetamine in clandestine labs.
Carlos Gutierrez, a drug industry lobbyist who served on the panel, said the task force excluded consumers, local business owners, chamber of commerce representatives and health insurance executives.
Gutierrez also accused task force chairman Dan Foster of handpicking witnesses who want to make pseudoephedrine a prescription-only drug.
Gutierrez criticized several of those speakers, including a Mississippi mayor, "whose testimony was frankly not at all helpful." And Gutierrez had this to say about a Stanford University professor who was a former national drug policy adviser in the George W. Bush and Obama administrations: "Frankly, I had never heard of him until this meeting."
"The task force seemed to have a pre-determined disposition ... and unfortunately didn't take the opportunity to hear from experts in law enforcement, academia, and most importantly, law-abiding West Virginians who have a far different opinion on this issue," said Gutierrez, a lobbyist for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, a Washington, D.C. trade group that represents over-the-counter drug manufacturers.
In a report released last week, the task force concluded that requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine, a key meth-making ingredient, would reduce meth production in Kanawha County and the rest of the state. The proposed legislation would exclude tamper-resistant pseudoephedrine products that can't be cooked into meth. Law enforcement officers have seized more than 500 meth labs statewide this year, a record number.
The prescription-only requirement was one of a dozen recommendations included in the task force report.
"The task force was entirely stacked, and the witness list was entirely geared toward arriving at a pre-determined recommendation," Gutierrez wrote in an email to Foster.
Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper defended Foster and the task force Tuesday. Carper noted the panel included Gutierrez and at least two other lobbyists who represent trade associations that oppose requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine products.
"The committee was totally autonomous," Carper said. "It was fair and balanced."
Foster was unavailable for comment Tuesday.
Gutierrez criticized numerous statements in the substance abuse task force report.
For instance, the report states that meth labs cause fires, explosions and toxic dumps.
"Is it possible to source this?" Gutierrez wrote to Foster. "I've heard anecdotes of fires and explosives but haven't seen actual data documenting the increase."
Gutierrez also took issue with the report's assertion that task force members were a "diverse group."