CHARLESTON, W.Va. – House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, praised the passage this week of a bipartisan package of legislation aimed at cracking down on drug traffickers and curbing substance abuse in the state.
The House this week passed several bills to give law enforcement and prosecutors additional tools to go after criminals dealing drugs in the state.
“Substance abuse is a scourge on our state and we must do everything we can to ensure our people are protected from dealers who prey on our citizens,” Speaker Armstead said.
“We must give our children hope to prevent them from becoming addicted in the first place,” Speaker Armstead said. “We must provide treatment those who have become addicted and help free them from addiction. Finally, we must crack down on those who try to profit from the addiction of others by trafficking drugs into our state.”
Bills passed this week include:
“Our police officers, who are fighting on the front lines to combat this epidemic, have been urging us to pass new laws to help them fight against these out-of-state drug traffickers who are targeting our citizens,” Speaker Armstead said. “Specifically, the public wants us to do more to protect innocent victims – especially children – from being exposed to these horrible drugs and drug-related acts.”
“These bills send a strong message that West Virginia will not tolerate kingpins and traffickers bringing drugs into this state,” said House Judiciary Chairman John Shott, R-Mercer. “These bills aren’t designed to tack on penalties to people charged with simple possession, as some claim, but rather are tailored to fight back against the dealers who take advantage of our citizens struggling with addiction. We want to cut off the supply of this poison as it comes into the state, and these bills go a long way toward cutting down on the drug trade.”
Speaker Armstead said he appreciated the strong, bipartisan support in passing these bills. Though he noted he was concerned by some of the comments brought up in the floor debates.
“It was argued several times during the debate of these bills that we shouldn’t be increasing penalties because it may cost more to put drug dealers in jail,” Speaker Armstead said. “The top priority of government is to protect its citizens against those who intend to do them harm. In my opinion, anyone who hides behind a budget deficit to say we shouldn’t prosecute people who prey on innocent citizens – including children – underestimates the harm being done by those who traffic drugs into our state.”
In addition to the bills passed this week, the House will also consider other bills next week to increase penalties for transporting controlled substances (House Bill 2579), and establish the new crime of organized retail crime (House Bill 2367).