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WV Senate passes prescription pseudoephedrine bill

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Update, 2:54 p.m. Feb. 18:

West Virginians soon might have to get a prescription for cold medicine, in an effort for lawmakers to combat the methamphetamine problem in the state.

The West Virginia Senate passed a bill that would make pseudoephedrine available by prescription only.

Senate Bill 6 would regulate the sale of drug products commonly used in the manufacture of methamphetamine. Those products would include pseudoephedrine (the active ingredients in Sudafed), a drug commonly used as a nasal/sinus decongestant.

The bill now goes to the House of Delegates.

Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, amended the bill to allow people who possess 3.6 grams or less of the drug to be expunged of the charge if they have it for medical purposes and purchased it legally.

Sens. Evan Jenkins, R-Cabell, and Chris Walters, R-Kanawha, were the only two Republicans who voted for the legislation. While Sen. Truman Chafin, D-Mingo, was the only Democrat vote it down.

The overall vote for the bill was 25-9.

Jenkins said he would vote for the legislation ultimately to help get rid of the statewide meth problem.

Sen. Gregory Tucker, D-Nicholas, is the sponsor of the bill and said meth was a "plague" that needed to be stopped.

The bill exempts two pseudoephedrine medications, Zephrex-D and Nexafed, because they cannot easily be converted to meth, officials said.

The Senate also passed other bills to the House, including Senate Bill 15, which would remove certain billing limitations for HIV or STD testing by public health agencies, and Senate Bill 100, which would authorize operation of low-speed vehicles on certain municipal roads.

Senators also recognized West Virginia State University and The Linsly School in Wheeling.

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Update, 12:26 p.m. Feb. 18:

Senate Bill 6, which would regulate the sale of drug products used in the manufacturing of methamphetamine and making them prescription only, passed the West Virginia Senate Tuesday, Feb. 18. If passed by the West Virginia House, pseudoephedrine related products would be made prescription only.

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Original Story:

Members of the West Virginia Senate voted down a bill for the first time during the 2014 regular legislative session Monday, Feb. 17.

The Senate rejected SB 422, which would have expanded state financial aid for students of certain health professions. Under the bill, students who wish to pursue careers not offered by the Mountain State colleges would have been able to do so with financial aid and a commitment to practice in their fields of study in West Virginia for every year they received the aid.

The bill was overwhelmingly opposed by Senate Republicans as well as several Democrats, including Sen. Rocky Fitzsimmons, D-Ohio, and Sen. Gregory Tucker, D-Nicholas.

The bill was rejected by a vote of 17-17, precluding to a long discussion of SB 6 which would require precursors to making methamphetamine to be prescription only.

The bill was read a second time and, after some debate and several senators trying to amend the bill, advanced. It is scheduled to be read a third time and voted on Feb. 18.

Sen. Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, as well as Sen. Evan Jenkins, R-Cabell, tried to amend the legislation.

Carmichael's amendment would have reduced the amount of pseudoephedrine available over the counter from 480 grams to 240 grams, preserved a meth abuser system as well as requiring anyone with a felony or any drug conviction to obtain a prescription for any amount of pseudoephedrine.

Tucker spoke in opposition to Carmichael's amendment, saying it would permit the bill from helping combat the meth problem in the state altogether.

"This is our best solution we have today," Tucker said. "Prescription only."

Tucker said only a small number of West Virginians would be affected by making the drug require a prescription.

Jenkins tried for an amendment, saying he was worried about the unintended consequences of passing the legislation. 

The only other states where pseudoephedrine products are available only by prescription are Oregon and Mississippi.

The Senate also recognized Monday as Veterans Visibility Day by honoring Fairmont native Herschel "Woody" Williams, a retired U.S. Marine who received the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Battle of Iwo Jima during WWII. Williams is the last surviving recipient of the Medal of Honor from that battle.