House passes amended pseudoephedrine bill - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

LATEST: Amended pseudoephedrine bill runs out of time, does not pass

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UPDATE, 12:10 a.m. March 9:

A conference committee report with a compromise for Senate Bill 6 did not meet the 9 p.m. deadline for conference committee reports and was not taken up in the final hours of the regular legislative session.

Original story:

On the last day of the 2014 Legislative session March 8, an amendment adopted March 7 came under reconsideration regarding Senate Bill 6, regulating the sale of drug products used in the manufacture of methamphetamine.

Delegate John Shott, R-Mercer, moved to amend the March 7 amendment. The original amendment adopted late March 7 allowed the county commissioner to enact a prescription-only ordinance in relation to the sale of drug products that can be used in the manufacture of methamphetamine for the particular county.

The adopted amendment was born as a compromise in response to the push for a statewide mandate for prescription-only pseudoephedrine in the legislation.

Shott explained that he wanted to tweak his original amendment so that a county commissioner would only be able to implement a prescription-only pseudoephedrine ordinance after a majority of the county's residents voted in the affirmative through a voting referendum.

Delegate Kelli Sobonya, R-Cabell, spoke in favor of Shott's reformed amendment.

Under the reformed amendment, Sobonya said the public would have the opportunity to have their voices heard.

Under the original amendment, the voting referendum and the majority approval of county citizens wouldn't have been necessary in the implementation of the prescription only ordinance.

"This reformed amendment is empowering the people and putting the power in the people's hands," Sobonya said.

Delegate Don Perdue, D-Wayne, also spoke in support of the amended amendment.

"There are a number of members that are more comfortable with passing this legislation if this amendment was passed," he said. "I would have preferred we had done something else but I support this gentleman's amendment."

Shott's amended amendment passed.

The bill as a whole was also up for passage, with debate for and against coming from both sides of the aisle. The bill passed the House by a vote of 63 to 34, but it still must clear the Senate before it competes the legislative process.

Under the proposed bill, an exception would apply for the legal possession of pseudoephedrine if it was purchased in a lawful jurisdiction. In other words, if a person with no previous criminal record purchased pseudoephedrine where the sale of the product was legal, that individual would not be liable for criminal prosecution.

The annual gram limit available for purchase would be reduced from 48 grams to 24 grams. Convicted drug offenders would be required to have a prescription and be reported to the national tracking, or NPLEX, system. Labs would be required to be reported to the national lab register and "smurfers"— individuals who purchase pseudoephedrine for others who intend to convert the pseudoephedrine for methamphetamine, would be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Those with first time smurfing charges would be liable for one year in jail and a fine of no more than $1,000. For anyone who hires smurfers, the penalty would be two to five years in jail and a fine of no more than $25,000. Tamper-resistant products that could not be converted into methamphetamine would not require a prescription.

Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, spoke in opposition to the bill, saying the proposed bill that came out of the House Judiciary Committee targeted the less than 1 percent who use pseudoephedrine for the production of methamphetamine, which was the ultimate goal.

Now, Sponaugle said, the amended version simply bypasses the individual citizens and lands in the lap of the county commissioner.

Delegate Joe Ellington, R-Mercer spoke in favor of the proposed bill.

Others in opposition voiced concern that if passed, local businesses could suffer from individuals traveling across county lines to purchase pseudoephedrine where it is legal without a prescription.

According to Perdue, the proposed legislation born out of compromise is better than no proposed legislation at all.

"In trying to come up with something most can agree to, I'm proud of this body," he said. "I think we've gone as far as we can go today but I don't think we've gone as far as we need to go."