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Don Surber: Listen to industry advocates, too

Creation of a heroin task force in Kanawha County may be a sign of progress.

Police officials say heroin use is an epidemic as the cases quintupled in recent years.

“I saw my first overdose in 2001, and in the last three years there has been an off-the-chart spike in heroin overdoses,” Charleston Fire Capt. Mark Strickland told reporters.

The rise in heroin use follows a 60 percent decline in police use of the National Precursor Log Exchange, which tracks the sale of decongestants that are based on pseudoephedrine.

No one is saying why police use of the system is down, but logic dictates it follows a drop in the use of meth.

After all, heroin use is rising off-the-charts.

And drug company lobbyists predicted in 2013 that meth heads would switch to heroin if meth went away.

Drug company lobbyists pushed the Legislature to adopt the NPLEx system.

This was an alternative to a proposal by lobbyists for some doctors and police officers.

They wanted to require a prescription to buy over-the-counter allergy and cold relief because of meth making.

Given that prescription drug abuse is by far the No. 1 drug problem in West Virginia the proposal was head-scratching.

West Virginia leads the nation in the rate of overdose deaths.

More than 90 percent of those deaths come from prescription drugs, such as anti-depressants (No. 1) and painkillers (No. 2).

Many of these are suicides, but many are accidental.

The state has some unscrupulous doctors who peddle prescriptions that allow junkies to get high.

Requiring prescriptions for a cold pill would give these crooks a new revenue stream and not solve the problem.

The industry came to the rescue. They had to. No company wants their product linked to criminal activity.

Indeed, several chains of drug stores stopped selling pseudoephedrines in West Virginia because of the meth problem.

By the way, you need a prescription to buy heroin.

How’s that working out?

The meth problem is one of the few examples of a Democratic-controlled legislative body listening to industry lobbyists — or advocates, to borrow the description we use for liberal lobbyists.

But West Virginia politics are changing. The prospect of the first Republican House Speaker since John William Cummins stepped down in 1931 loomed over the Legislature in this year’s session.

This explained why the governor’s bill on storage tanks sailed through the state Senate like a Yankee Clipper ­­— and stalled in the House.

Senate President Jeff Kessler need not worry about a Republican takeover next year.

But House Speaker Tim Miley must worry.

This is why he sent the bill to three major committees, who have a total of 75 members in a 100 delegate House.

Lawmakers had to pass something in response to a chemical spill that knocked out the water supply for one-sixth of the state’s population.

But while the Senate would pass any old thing, the House listened to industry.

The House worked into the wee hours scrutinizing 100 proposed amendments as a snowstorm approached.

Delegates wanted to get it right, and they almost did.

But as the dean of West Virginia journalism, Hoppy Kercheval, pointed out the storage tank law poses a huge problem.

Oil and natural gas drillers told Kercheval there are not enough qualified engineers available to inspect and certify every tank in the state by the Jan. 1 deadline.

Now liberals will say too bad. They hate oil and gas as much as they hate coal.

Here in the real world, we need oil and we need gas. The industry wants a special session to fix the problem.

Democrats should listen to industry. Just as they did with pseudoephedrine.


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