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Harsher penalties mulled for drug dealers in West Virginia


Education Writer
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WHEELING, W.Va. — A bill making it a felony to knowingly deliver or administer drugs to a person that later result in the drug user’s death is moving in the West Virginia Legislature.

Senate Bill 220, introduced by Sen. Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, unanimously passed the Senate and is now before the House Judiciary Committee.

Under the measure, any person who “knowingly and willfully” delivers a controlled or counterfeit controlled substance to a person would be guilty of a felony if the substance later causes that person’s death. Conviction would mean imprisonment of 10-40 years.

The bill also specifies a lesser punishment of three to 15 years for someone providing a drug that causes death, but “without remuneration and without the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury.”

Weld serves as vice chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and is an assistant prosecutor in Brooke County.

“We presently don’t have a mechanism in the state in which a drug dealer could be held liable for someone’s death,” he said. “This closes the loophole. If they would sell someone a drug cut with Ajax and fentanyl, the dealer couldn’t be held liable. It is an injustice for the individual who died.”

Weld also has introduced Senate Bill 202, which would prohibit the sale of store gift cards at pawn shops. While it may not seem obvious on the surface, this measure also is aimed at curbing drug use.

“What we have are individuals who will shoplift items from stores, then seek to return them,” Weld said. “They don’t get cash back since they don’t have a receipt, so they get a gift card. Then they go to the pawn shop, where they can sell the card for 30 cents on the dollar. They can then use the money to buy drugs.”

Weld said the incident has happened often enough in West Virginia that he thought it should be addressed.

He expects both bills to move in the Senate in the coming days.

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