Ellem said meth cooks typically hire people -- known as "smurfers" -- to buy pseudoephedrine for them.
"Not only are people from Wood County buying from our stores, but even people from as far away as Kanawha County are coming up here, seeking more avenues for 'smurfing' and coming up to buy the product," Ellem said.
During the 2012 legislative session, state lawmakers passed Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's substance-abuse bill, which included a provision that requires statewide electronic tracking of pseudoephedrine. The new law also limits the purchase of the cold medication -- sold under brand names such as Sudafed and Claritin D -- to about three boxes a month and 20 boxes a year.
Delegate Kelli Sobonya, R-Cabell, said meth labs aren't a statewide problem. Police found three or fewer meth labs in 24 counties, according to the State Police report. Meanwhile, Kanawha County, which has 10 percent of the state's total population, had nearly one of every three meth labs last year.
"It's a Kanawha County issue," Sobonya said. "I want to help Kanawha County, but look at all these counties  that have no meth labs."
Sobonya opposes legislation that would make pseudoephedrine medications prescription-only.
"This does not reduce meth deaths, and it does not reduce meth use," she said. "So why don't we as a Legislature want to help people get off meth?"
Ellem said he expects a battle over the legislation in the coming weeks. The bill's opponents say it would drive up health-care costs, inconvenience people and infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens.
"I'm looking for a good debate over the bill," Ellem said. "I just don't accept that it's a freedom issue.
"Just because you don't agree with something, you can't raise it to the level that it's infringing on freedoms," he added. "We are, after all, talking about a cold medicine."
Reach Eric Eyre at erice...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.