By Bobby Bordelon
After consideration at the previous Rainelle Town Council, the councilmembers have agreed to move forward with a zero tolerance ban on drug paraphernalia in Rainelle on Monday, May 10. The ordinance would also bring an end to Harm Reduction clinics in Rainelle sponsored by the Greenbrier County Health Department and Seneca Health Services.
The ordinance would make it “unlawful” for anyone to “have in their possession, any items designed or marketed for the use of controlled substances,” such as:
– Kits for use in planting, propagating, cultivating, or growing or harvesting any species of plant which is a controlled substance or from which a controlled substance can be derived.
– Kits for use in manufacturing, compounding, converting, processing, or preparing controlled substances.
– Devices used to increasing the potency of any species of plant which is a controlled substance.
– Testing equipment designed for use in identifying or analyzing the strength, effectiveness, or purity of controlled substances.
– Scales and balances used, intended for use, or designed for use in weighing or measuring controlled substances.
– Diluents or adultants used in cutting controlled substances.
– Segregation skins and sifters designed for use in removing twigs and seed and otherwise cleaning or refining marijuana.
– Blenders, bowls, containers, spoons, mixing devices used, intended for use, or designed for use in compounding controlled substances.
– Capsules, balloons, and other containers marketed for use or designed for use in packaging small quantities of controlled substances.
– Hypodermic syringes, needles, and other objects marketed for use or designed for use for injecting controlled substances into the human body.
– Paper of colorful design with names oriented for use with controlled, dangerous substances. Tobacco oriented paper not specifically designed for use with controlled substances in not covered.
– Types of clips that are used in connection with a controlled substance.
– Roach clips, meaning objects used to hold burning materials such as marijuana cigarettes.
– Miniature cocaine spoons and cocaine vials.
The ordinance also noted that if a court makes part of the ordinance invalid, the rest of the ordinance is valid without the invalid provision.
Acting Mayor Bill Bell voiced opposition to the Harm Reduction clinics, in particular the needle exchange program.
“It does attract people that come to your community, I would say that’s a given,” Bell said. “It enables current drug use, whether or not you agree that it does. It does affect the drug use of the entire community, as a whole. I’d have to think that if you have that many needles out there and that many [40 percent] are not getting returned, it’s increasing use somewhere. … these are the concerns of the people in our community and we have to listen to them.”
Councilmember and mayoral candidate John Wyatt questioned why Seneca hosts the Harm Reduction programs in Rainelle, rather than opening a clinic directly in the city. He continued on to say the program is looking to the Town of Rainelle to do its job.
“If you’re in that program, you have to drive to Lewisburg, Beckley, or cross the state line,” Wyatt said. “There’s a whole lot of questions I have about how these programs are run, how they’re taken care of, or where they choose. Why do they choose downtown Rainelle and not downtown Lewisburg or Ronceverte or White Sulphur Springs?”
Recently, Seneca Health Services hosted a Narcan distributions in Rupert, White Sulphur Springs, Alderson, and in Lewisburg.
One guest speaker, nurse and recovery coach Alyssa Marshall, pushed back against this characterization and spoke in favor of the Harm Reduction clinics.
“Everyone has someone in their family that struggles with addiction,” said Marshall. “If you don’t, they may be hiding it very well or are in denial. … The Harm Reduction program distributes disease prevention material, educational material, they check for HIV, Heitatis A and C.”
Marshall questioned if nurses and other authorized people with these items would be pulled over or face law enforcement action for having the correct equipment for doing their jobs. Bell confirmed this would not be the case.
“Our officers are well trained and I think they would be able to judge if you had someone abusing it,” agreed Councilmember Martha Livesay. “They’re not going to pull over an eldery person or a nurse, they’re smart enough to know the difference.”
Marshall also touched on how laws like this affect perceptions of people using these items for legitimate purposes.
“Recently I had a young patient whose diabetes was out of control. He ended up in the hospital in a coma. During the conversation, he mentioned he hadn’t been checking his blood sugar. He was embarrassed, he’s go out with friends and he didn’t want to check his blood sugar before going out into a restaurant. He said ‘how would you feel if you saw me sitting in a vehicle, giving myself a shot? You wouldn’t know what I was doing, you would automatically think I was living in addiction because I’m a young person.’”
In addition, she pushed back on something Bell allegedly told her in a previous conversation.
“As I was speaking with the mayor, he referred to those living with addiction as dope heads and deadbeats,” Marshall said. “I don’t appreciate that. I’m sorry but I would expect someone elected to officer to serve all the people and be willing to see them all for people, and not judge in any way.”
Wyatt addressed the Harm Reduction program and the people trying to get help for those with addiction.
“I know they are well meaning and wonderful people and have compassion for the addict, as well as I do, but our community,” Wyatt said. “We have to think about our community and figure out how to address these problems. … Even though we have empathy and sympathy for those that are in addiction, our first line of defense is for the community.”
The first reading of the ordinance was passed unanimously and will be taken up again, with a public hearing, in a future Town Council meeting.