Senate legislators accelerate bill that would result in harsher punishments for drug possession

Charleston, WV (WOAY)-  Amid the state’s ongoing opioid epidemic, senate legislators are considering harsher punishments for the possession of hard drugs, even in small quantities. 

Senate Bill 154 would escalate misdemeanor drug possession to a felony, which carries a 1 to 5-year prison sentence. 

Supporters of the bill argue that the harsher punishment will give people the help they need.

Currently, individuals convicted of drug possession go before a magistrate court and face ninety days to six months in jail. 

However, bill advocates state that magistrate courts do not have drug court programs to provide treatment for substance use disorders. 

Opponents of the bill argue the legislation would not be possible to implement as only forty-six out of all 55 West Virginia counties have drug courts. 

Legislators are also reviewing punishments for drug dealing, examining a bill that would accelerate the mandatory minimum from one to three years in prison. 

SB 154 has been pushed through the House Judiciary Committee for further consideration. 

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