CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Of all the bills the West Virginia Legislature passed this session, I think the most important is the ban on owning exotic animals such as tigers. Thank the stars above the state managed to enact this legislation.It is clear that the state is determined to follow a new rule: If it seems unsafe, legalize it!Owning tigers may seem exactly the sort of unsafe practice the Legislature would legalize, even require, but if that is your line of thought you are not thinking like a West Virginia elected official. Studies show that pets are beneficial to physical and mental health. The simple act of petting a cat makes us feel less lonely and lowers blood pressure. If petting a normal size cat lowers your blood pressure a little, it stands to reason that petting a tiger would lower your blood pressure even more. And we can't have that. Recent polls show West Virginia is the most depressed state in the Union, and lawmakers don't want to squander that notoriety. Our legislature is determined to keep us sick, addicted and depressed.Meth makers, however, can rejoice. You are the darlings of the conspiracy to keep us sick and sad. If everyone in West Virginia is hooked on meth, unemployed, in poverty and depressed then sustaining an inept state government will be so much simpler. If we are depressed and high we will be more apt to believe the root of our problems are federal regulations aimed at clean water and clean air, rather than zillion-dollar companies who want to make a few bucks.
As a voting population, we West Virginians must be high to think our industries are overregulated when the Upper Big Branch mine disaster, the 2011 natural gas pipeline explosion, and the Freedom Industries chemical spill all happened, at least in part, because of lack of inspections and lack of governmental oversight. "Dude, oops," seems to be our state government's default response to industrial disasters and the drug problem.They are hoping we are too high to notice, or too sick to get out of bed to do anything about it.I do applaud the West Virginia Legislature for taking away the rights of individual municipalities to make decisions about gun laws. We clearly cannot trust our local governments to keep us safe. After all, right here in Kanawha County, some officials thought funding the library was a good idea. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and funding has been drastically curtailed. A literate population is a healthier population, and we can't have that. How can we possibly allow county officials who want kids to read to also make gun laws?I am a gun owner, but I have never felt the need to take a gun to the rec center. I guess I need to reconsider that choice. But if I did take a concealed gun to the gym, where would I put it? I wear shorts and a t-shirt when I work out. Where would I conceal my gun? If I have to put my gun in a locker, that negates the whole purpose of bringing it. I'm gonna have to mull this one over.Do I really think there is a conspiracy in West Virginia to keep us unsafe and get us all high? Of course not. The pharmaceutical industry's effort to keep medications containing the pseudoephedrine used to produce meth available over the counter are purely altruistic. Big Pharma is truly, deeply, concerned for all the billions of West Virginia cold sufferers who just might not pull through if they have to rely on readily available cold medications that cannot be manipulated by meth manufacturers. Mississippi and Oregon, two states that have passed laws requiring prescriptions for meth making medications, have suffered a staggering number of cold related deaths, half the populations moved to Texas, and both states are facing financial ruin. Oregon has gone so far as to adopt legislation to be annexed by British Columbia. If only Big Pharma had done for those states what they have done for West Virginia. Thank you Big Pharma. I know you never once thought, "What? Really? We make a lot of money from people who buy our legitimate products to produce highly addictive and destructive illegal drugs? Dude, oops."In parting, I have a final word for exotic animal owners. You either need to become part of the conspiracy or figure out a way to use your animals to make drugs. If there was a chance your critters were going to leak toxins into the environment, or be ingested for the purpose of getting high, of if you could conceal you giant beasts for the purpose of self-protection, you would become immediately invisible to the West Virginia Legislature. And then, if one of your critters did something wrong you could just say, "Dude, oops."Lepp, of South Charleston, is a professional storyteller. Read more at leppstorytelling.com.