Ashton Marra Published

Senate Passes Bill Requiring Prescriptions for Pseudoephedrine


Senators put the highly anticipated prescription only pseudoephedrine bill to a vote Tuesday, but only after receiving a last minute amendment on the floor.

Senate Judiciary Chair Corey Palumbo moved to amend the bill to address someone buying cold medicine in another state and bringing it back to West Virginia.

The amendment allows a court hearing before being tried on a drug charge when a person without a prior drug conviction is caught with less than 3.6 grams, or the federal daily limit.

That person must then prove to a judge they bought the drug legally in another state and intended to use it lawfully for medicinal purposes.

A person caught with pseudoephedrine who does not have a prescription is allowed to go through the court process just one time, avoiding a drug charge, but Senator Evan Jenkins, who proposed a similar amendment Monday, wanted to know why the Judiciary Chair had originally proposed his change.

“This allows one shot, you can get out of it one time and beyond that you’re on notice,” Palumbo replied.

“You should know beyond that, that’s not something you should be doing anymore. You’re amendment would have allowed that to occur on multiple occasions.”

Palumbo’s amendment was accepted unanimously.

Before the vote, the Judiciary Chair said two years ago a similar bill was defeated by the chamber, but since, some things have changed.

First, there is a wider availability of the conversion resistant product that will continue to be available without a prescription. Second, he said the number of meth labs being discovered in the state has drastically increased, up from 229 in 2011 to 533 in 2013.

“Meth has become such a scourge in our society, such a pervasive problem that reaches all corners of the state that this is the action we need to take to eradicate these labs. It’s the best thing we can do” he said.

“Will it get rid of them totally, absolutely not, but I think it’s been shown in the other states that have tried this, the meth labs have been significantly reduced in those states.”

Senator Clark Barnes rose in opposition of the legislation, saying he’s not against reducing the number of meth labs, but had many other concerns with the bill.

 “The number one problem with drugs in West Virginia is prescription pain medication,” he said. “It certainly doesn’t take a great deal of thought to realize that when you’re number one problem is already in the hands of the medical community then we may not be solving the problem by turning the meth problem over to (them).”

Barnes also took issue with the discontinuation of the NPLEX system in West Virginia, a database that tracks pseudoephedrine purchases across state lines, and the effect misdemeanor convictions may have on gun ownership rights, which Palumbo tried to address with his amendment.

Still, the bill passed 25 to 9, but not on party lines as anticipated.

Republican Senators Jenkins and Chris Walters voted to support the bill, unlike most members of their party, while Democratic Senator Truman Chafin voted against it.