The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Police/Courts

January 28, 2014

Meth lab busts in state up 85 percent in 2013

CHARLESTON — Methamphetamine lab seizures jumped 85 percent in West Virginia in 2013 as police discovered the illegal drug-making operations in 45 of the state’s 55 counties.

Authorities seized 533 meth labs, compared to 288 in 2012, a West Virginia State Police report says. Kanawha County led the state with 159 meth lab seizures, followed by 36 in Wood County, 28 in Putnam County, 27 in Upshur County, 21 in Mason County, 20 in Cabell County and 19 in Greenbrier County.

“It’s an epidemic, a cancer and a scourge on this state,” Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper told the Charleston Gazette. “And I believe the numbers are much higher. Those are just the ones that got caught.”

Delegate John Ellem, R-Wood, said meth labs frequently cause fires in his county.

“It seems like we average about one lab every week,” he told the newspaper, “and, sometimes, two a week.”

Ellem supports legislation that would require a prescription for cold medications containing pseudoephedrine, which is a key ingredient in making meth. The bill exempts “tamper-resistant” pseudoephedrine products, such as Nexafed and Zephrex-D, that can’t easily be converted to meth.

“Not only are people from Wood County buying from our stores, but even people from as far away as Kanawha County are coming up here, seeking more avenues for ‘smurfing’ and coming up to buy the product,” Ellem said, referring to people hired by meth makers to buy pseudoephedrine for them.

Cabell County Delegate Kelli Sobonya, R-Cabell, opposes the legislation, saying meth labs are not a statewide problem.

“It’s a Kanawha County issue,” Sobonya told the newspaper. “I want to help Kanawha County, but look at all these counties that have no meth labs.”

“This does not reduce meth deaths, and it does not reduce meth use,” she said. “So why don’t we as a Legislature want to help people get off meth?”

A state law passed in 2012 requires statewide electronic tracking of pseudoephedrine and limits the purchase of the cold medication to about three boxes a month and 20 boxes a year.

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