State drug legislation will be enacted this summer

The State Capitol of West Virginia on a sunny day.

CHARLESTON, W. Va.–New legislation that will be enacted this summer will protect kids from faulty over-the-counter substances.

Governor Jim Justice signed two drug-related bills Wednesday, SB 220 and SB 546, which passed in both chambers unanimously, in what is a massive overhaul of the state’s drug laws.

The one leading the effort on getting these two pieces of legislation signed was first-term Senator from Kanawha County Mike Stuart. Senator Stuart learned about this problem after being reported on many suspensions schools were handing out to students who were caught using various synthetic, over-the-counter drugs.

“These are important bills that set West Virginia apart from most states in the country,” the senator said. “This will create the toughest regulatory regime in the nation to ensure our children and our families are protected from over-the-counter and convenience store products.”

Senate Bill 220 will create two separate regulatory regimes, one for kratom and one for non-synthetic hemp-derived products.

Senate Bill 546 reenacts Schedules I, II, IV, and V of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act. It’ll include the substances Delta 8 and Delta 10 to Schedule I.

“Thank you to Governor Justice for his support on this important issue,” the Senator said. “These actions will immediately protect our children and deal with what many call “the next opiate crisis,””

There’s a 90-day period to put bills like this in place due to the criminal penalties involved. Once the laws take effect, June 9th and 10th, all of the substances mentioned in the bill will become contraband.

“Meaning they are illegal in the state of West Virginia,” Stuart said.

The Department of Agriculture plays a huge role in these developments. They will be tasked with the approval of all Delta-8, Delta-10, and kratom products. Sites that sell these products will be regulated, according to Stuart. The Senator said businesses marketing and offering up these products to younger people should get ahead of the next phase in this substance abuse crackdown…the regulatory one.

“All retailers who are selling these substances, I think they should voluntarily pull them off their shelves immediately,” Stuart said, adding they msut be responsible in the process.

The Kanawha County Senator was disappointed legislation like this wasn’t done sooner. He learned first hand from being a U.S. Attorney what this crisis was like.

“I wish we would’ve done this years ago” said Stuart. “What is happening in West Virginia today should be frightening to every mom and dad across the state.”

A handful of officials and organizations had a hand in getting these bills drafted and ultimately signed. Stuart said the support from everyone across the board was key in getting the legislation through.

“I think everybody understood what kind of challenge we were up against,” he said.

The Commissioner of Agriculture, the Commissioner of the Alcohol Beverage Control Administration were vital to the bill. Senator Stuart thanked the counsel and staff of the State Senate Judiciary Committee, the West Virginia Board of Pharmacy, the West Virginia Office of Medical Cannabis and members of their Advisory Board.

Law enforcement agencies have also shown support for these actions. Stuart claimed agencies will become educated on what products they should be looking for as far as their legality.

“I’m sure we’ll take further action in the future, but this is a great start,” the senator added.

A legal age to purchase these over-the-counter products is set at 21. SB 220 also introduces a 15% tax on retail sales. 20% of those taxes will be