Fighting Drug Abuse in W.Va.

West Virginia lawmakers last week heard presentations to inform their discussion about legalizing medical marijuana in the state. Many are uneasy about the idea – and rightly so. It is a slippery slope in a state with a unique set of concerns.

Methamphetamine abuse has become a plague in our state. At one point last year, meth lab arrests were occurring at a pace of one per day.

But even a state-of-the-art registration system has failed to put a dent in the sale of pseudoephedrine for the manufacture of meth. Legislators, pharmacists, doctors and law enforcement officers cannot agree on whether it is time to make pseudoephedrine – also a beneficial cold and allergy medication – a prescription-only product.

Meanwhile, law enforcement has found it incredibly difficult to get a handle on the drug traffic and violence that has made places such as Columbus, Ohio, Cleveland and Washington, D.C., increasingly visible in our local crime reports.

In short, West Virginia already has an enormous drug problem, which is stretching our resources to the limit. If we can’t even restrict use of a cold and allergy medicine to legitimate purposes, how on earth do we suppose we can limit marijuana use to those who need it for therapeutic reasons?

Many have cited the Obama administration’s decision not to prosecute users of certain drugs who are simply following the laws of their own states. Their theory seems to be that if the federal government says it is all right, maybe it is the right thing to do. But such a decision could just as likely have been fueled by the president’s own admitted history of drug abuse as any kind of medical or socioeconomic research.

Lawmakers must tread very carefully in the discussion of legalizing medical marijuana, and err on the side of making it harder – not easier – for drug use to tighten its evil grip on so many in West Virginia.