Panel Alters Meth Bill

CHARLESTON (AP) – Consumers would be limited to buying 24 grams of cold medicine each year, half what’s currently allowed, under legislation approved by lawmakers late Tuesday that is aimed at curbing methamphetamine production in West Virginia.

The legislation originally required a prescription for Sudafed and other over-the-counter medications that contain pseudoephedrine, which is used to make meth. But after more than three hours of discussion, the House Judiciary Committee agreed instead to cut the current 48-gram limit in half. The lower threshold matches the new standard in Kentucky.

The bill also would create a meth offender registry and require previous drug offenders to get prescriptions for some cold medications.

Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, said law-abiding citizens shouldn’t face extra burdens to get medication because of the illegal acts of a few citizens.

“This is fair and equitable,” Sponaugle said.

The amended legislation now aligns with suggestions Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey made before the Legislature convened in January.

The Senate easily passed the original prescription-only bill on Feb. 18. Some over-the-counter alternatives can’t easily be turned into meth, such as Nexafed and Zephrex-D. The original Senate bill would have kept those products available without prescriptions.

The House still needs to pass the amended bill and compromise on a final version with the Senate. The legislative session ends Saturday.

Last week, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour sent West Virginia lawmakers a letter supporting the prescription-only push.

Barbour, who signed Mississippi’s bill into law in 2010, said his state experienced an 83 percent reduction in meth lab-related incidents and a 98-percent drop in operational meth labs.