Weirton ordinance targets drug users

WEIRTON — Legislation before Weirton City Council will make it a crime to appear in public under the influence of drugs.

The ordinance passed in an emergency reading on Monday by a 7-0 vote of council, establishing a charge of “appearing in a public place or automobile in a drug induced condition.”

City Attorney Vince Gurrera said the ordinance was developed because of an increase in incidents in which people have been found to be in a drug-induced condition while in public.

“The closest thing you can equate it to is public intoxication, but without the alcohol,” Gurrera said.

People in that condition are a danger to themselves and others, he said.

Under the terms of the ordinance, a conviction carries a fine of up to $500 and up to 30 days in jail.

Police Chief Rob Alexander said the legislation will be of assistance to officers.

Gurrera said Weirton is the first municipality in West Virginia to adopt such an ordinance.

This is the third time Weirton has taken the lead in enacting a drug-related criminal charge at the municipal level, he said. Prior, charges had been handled through county and state law enforcement agencies and courts.

In recent years, the Weirton adopted ordinances establishing municipal-level criminal charges for possession of a drug abuse instrument and possession of heroin.

Other municipalities have taken note, Gurrera said.

“We’re starting to see where other municipalities are adopting our ordinances,” Gurrera said.