The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

January 29, 2014

Meth mess

— State Police report that methamphetamine lab seizures jumped 85 percent in West Virginia in 2013. The illicit labs were found in 45 of the state’s 55 counties.

In 2012, there were 288 meth lab seizures.

If that stat — we repeat: 85 percent — does not make people sit up and take notice, we’re not sure what will.

One of the key fights in the Legislature this session will be a proposed bill to require a prescription to purchase pseudoephedrine, a sinus medication that is a main ingredient in making meth.

Those in favor believe such a move will help stop meth-makers from buying  necessary amounts to cook up their dangerous brew.

Opponents say it won’t stop the criminals; it will only cause problems and expenses for ordinary people.

We can see the divide among legislators in reviewing comments by Wood County Delegate John Ellem and Cabell Delegate Kelli Sobonya.

Ellem says meth “is an epidemic, a cancer and a scourge on the state.”

Sobonya’s take is that meth labs are not a statewide problem, adding it’s a Kanawha County issue. Of the 533 labs seized in 2013, 159 were in that county.

Sobonya needs to re-evaluate her position. If 80 percent of the state’s counties had meth seizures, it is a statewide problem in our view.

And who is to say, if the problem goes unchecked, that it won’t spread to counties currently free of labs.

In reality, as Ellem noted, the number of labs probably is much higher. The ones represented by the State Police statistics are just the ones who were caught.

That said, everyone involved in trying to solve the issue — legislators, law enforcement, health care officials — must look at any and all possible solutions, study them, not rejecting any of them out of hand.

Just think of all of the bad things that roll down hill from the illegal activity — increased crime, cleanup costs, health issues, impacted children.

Meth-making and its use are not indigenous to West Virginia. One Internet source says the title “Meth Capitol of the World” has been used to describe more than 70 different American towns and cities from California to New York.

Just as we have advocated for the prescription pill epidemic, we believe it would be a smart move for minds across the United States to come together to discuss solutions to these issues.

Communication will be one of the keys to finding solutions to these problems. We urge all stakeholders to keep those lines open.