CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Legislation intended to curb illegal methamphetamine production in West Virginia is headed to the Senate floor, after winning approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday night.
The legislation (SB6) would require people to get a doctor's prescription before they could buy some cold medications containing pseudoephedrine, a key-meth making ingredient.
"It's a tough issue for a lot of people," said Senate Judiciary Chairman Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha. "We're trying to balance all we can do to address the meth problem with inconveniencing lawful users of the product. We've reached the point where the meth lab problem is so bad that this is clearly the best alternative to address it."
West Virginia law enforcement officers seized 533 meth labs last year, nearly double the 287 labs found in 2012.
Senate leaders expect the full Senate to pass the bill. They're uncertain whether House members will support the legislation.
"I feel very good it will pass the Senate," said Sen. Greg Tucker, a Democrat from Nicholas County, where five meth labs were seized this week. "It will be up to House members to vote their conscience."
Drug industry lobbyists oppose the bill, saying it would drive up health-care costs and inconvenience consumers.
"We are very disappointed that certain members of the Senate have decided to cast a vote in favor legislation that would impose significant burdens and higher health-care costs on thousands of law-abiding West Virginia families," said Carlos Gutiérrez, a lobbyist for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. "While we certainly commend the legislature for taking action to address the meth problem, we urge them to focus on solutions that target criminals, not honest West Virginia families."
But Charleston police officer Chad Napier told lawmakers Wednesday the drug manufacturers Gutierrez represents care more about profits than eradicating meth labs.
"It's about money. It's about greed. It's not about consumers," Napier said.
Meth cooks can't make the highly addictive drug without pseudoephedrine, which is sold under brand names such as Sudafed and Claritin-D.
The bill would exempt so-called "tamper-resistant" pseudoephedrine products, such as Nexafed and Zephrex-D, that can't easily be converted illegally into meth.
Senate Judiciary Committee members discussed and debated the anti-meth bill for more than three hours Wednesday.
Republican senators moved to amend the bill so West Virginians could buy pseudoephedrine in neighboring states and keep small quantities of the cold medication at home. The bill prohibits people from possessing pseudoephedrine in West Virginia without a doctor's prescription.