Hamilton seeks support for drug abuse bill

Del. Bill Hamilton met with the Upshur County Commission and Buckhannon City Council Thursday, seeking support for a bill relating to substance abuse that officials will see during the 2014 legislative session.

Commission president Donnie Tenney told Hamilton that he was “preaching to the choir” about passing a bill that would better regulate and require prescriptions for products containing sudafedrin, an ingredient required to make methamphetamine.

“It’s another tool in the fight against clandestine meth labs,” Hamilton said, adding that substance abuse is a problem throughout West Virginia. “We are soliciting the county and the city’s support in passing a bill which I believe will be another tool for law enforcement against these clandestine meth labs. It would restrict the sell of sudafedrin-based products.”

Hamilton said that methamphetamine labs have increased by 63 percent nationwide since 2007. He said the number of methamphetamine labs in the state are expected to double from last year’s figures.

Hamilton also said that domestic violence issues sometimes have to do with methamphetamine use. He added that use of methamphetamine comes at a high cost to the state, counties and cities because of jail fees and the transporting of some foster children out of the state.

“We are fighting two battles,” Hamilton said. “One, against strung-out addicts, and the other against some of the world’s wealthiest and politically connected corporations or drug manufacturers.

“We can’t arrest our way out of this meth lab problem. What we’ll try to do is choke off the cooks’ supply if we pass this legislation.”

Hamilton said that Oregon lawmakers passed a bill that required a prescription for sudafedrin-based products in 2006. Since that bill was passed, Oregon’s meth lab confiscations have gone down by 96 percent.

“By 2008, Oregon’s violent crime rates were the lowest in the country,” Hamilton said, adding that the state’s property crime rates fell to their lowest in more than 40 years by 2009.

Hamilton said that Oregon is not alone in passing such a bill. He said that Mississippi passed a similar bill in 2010. Mississippi’s meth labs have reduced by 74 percent since the bill was passed, Hamilton said. He also said that both states still have a meth problem.

“Passing their bill has given Mississippi and Oregon law enforcement more time to concentrate on traffickers who are bringing meth into their state, instead of working on meth lab confiscation and clean-up,” Hamilton said.

After Hamilton finished speaking, Tenney shifted the meeting into a discussion about an upcoming water drought exercise expected to take place in Upshur County this year.

“Maybe this isn’t the best year to do it,” Tenney joked, noting it has been a wet summer.

Tenney asked Buckhannon City Council members if a plan was in place in case a drought would occur.

Mayor Kenneth Davidson said that a drought would be unlikely. He defined a drought as a period of 90 days of 90-degree weather without rainfall.

“It’s good to plan for those kinds of situations,” Davidson said. “The likelihood of 90 days in West Virginia with 90-degree temperatures and no rain at all is pretty slim. We’ve seen some dry times, but we’ve never seen that – not to say it couldn’t happen.”

If a drought occurred, Davidson said that water could still be distributed to customers for about 70-72 days without interrupting the supply system if water levels dropped so low that water was not passing through the dam. Davidson said that large consumers, like car washes, could be shut off or limited on their supply. He said a car wash would be deemed unnecessary in that kind of an emergency, and water would likely be shut off to those customers.

Davidson said that there has not been a time when water levels were so low that water could not pass through the dam. He did, however, recall a time when levels almost got that low, but a rain restored the levels.