Senate Democrats said SB6 would reduce the number of meth labs but wouldn't necessarily stop meth abuse. Meth labs spark fires, injure children, police and firefighters, and contaminate motels, homes and apartments, they said. Claims related to meth labs also have gutted the West Virginia Crime Victims Compensation Fund, an account initially set up to help victims of violent crimes, lawmakers said.
"This will make us safer," said Sen. Sam Cann, D-Harrison. "This bill is about making our neighborhoods safe. It takes a dangerous ingredient off the streets."
Sen. Evan Jenkins, R-Cabell, also tried to amend the bill, saying the current version would unfairly punish law-abiding consumers who possess small amounts of the cold medication.
Jenkins wanted to add a provision that would allow people to legally keep two or three boxes of pseudoephedrine without a prescription.
Jenkins said West Virginians might leave the state to shop or go on vacation and return with a box of the medication without knowing it was illegal to possess in West Virginia. Only two states, Mississippi and Oregon, have a pseudoephedrine prescription law.
Out-of-state students attending colleges in West Virginia also might not know about the prescription requirement, he said.
"If they show up on campus with one lawfully purchased pill, guess what. They could be charged with a crime and be put in jail for up to a year," Jenkins said.
The Senate voted 24-10 to reject Jenkins' change, saying it would allow meth makers to send accomplices -- called "smurfers" -- to neighboring states to buy pseudoephedrine.
Several legislators noted the bill exempts so-called "tamper-resistant" pseudoephedrine products, such as Nexafed and Zephrex-D, which can't easily be converted to meth.
"It's this simple: If we pass this, to possess pseudoephedrine in the state of West Virginia you have to have a prescription, no matter where you get it," Cann said. "So you can have it, you can use it, if your doctor gives you a prescription."
Reach Eric Eyre at erice...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.