CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia law enforcement agencies have seized 332 methamphetamine labs during the first six months of this year, setting a pace that could more than double last year's number of meth busts.
More than 100 meth labs were found in Kanawha County alone, five times more than in any other county in West Virginia. Wood County had 21 meth busts, followed by Cabell County with 19, Putnam County with 18, and Mason County with 17 labs seized, according to a State Police count released Tuesday.
The sharp increase comes despite a new law designed to curb the proliferation of meth labs.
"The growth of meth labs has been phenomenal," said Delegate Don Perdue, D-Wayne, who heads the House Health and Human Resources Committee. "It's a cheap high. It's the cheapest high they can get."
Other counties with double-digit meth lab busts include Lewis County with 15 meth labs discovered, and Greenbrier, Boone and Randolph counties, all with 11 seized labs each. Upshur County had 10 meth lab busts so far this year.
Last year, law enforcement agencies shut down 288 meth labs in West Virginia.
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, a cold and allergy medication that's also a key meth-making ingredient. The new law also limits the purchase of pseudoephedrine -- better known under the Sudafed or Claritin D brand names -- to three boxes per month and 20 per year.
Starting in January, all West Virginia pharmacies started reporting to the "real-time" tracking system -- called the National Precursor Log Exchange, or NPLEx.
Despite the computerized system, pseudoephedrine sales remain high. West Virginians have purchased about 44,200 boxes per month of the sinus medication this year, according to data released by Perdue's office Tuesday.
Kanawha County had the highest number of pseudoephedrine sales, with more than 59,000 boxes sold during the first six months of this year.
"Clearly, the sales of pseudoephedrine are not going down," Perdue said.
But Bridgett Lambert, executive director of the West Virginia Retailers Association, noted that NPLEx is keeping pseudoephedrine out of criminals' hands.
The tracking system blocked the sale of 11,635 boxes of the sinus medication since January, according to the report.
In Kanawha County alone, 4,584 boxes were blocked.