Pubdate: Sat, 27 Jan 2001
Source: Cincinnati Post (OH)
Copyright: 2001 The Cincinnati Post
Author: Andrew Conte


Southwest Ohio leads the state in the seizure of clandestine
methamphetamine labs, which produce a drug that may supplant crack and
cocaine for a cheaper, longer-lasting high, federal officials said.

Of 27 labs discovered by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency since
October, 22 were in Greater Cincinnati. Eight turned up in one 12-day
period that month.

Just this week, authorities identified two others: one lab in a
Covington, Ky., basement and another in a Deerfield Township trailer

"It's just unbelievable how we've gone from zero to where it seems
all we're concerned about lately," said one DEA official.

Gov. Bob Taft declared war on methamphetamine - also known as meth,
ice or crank - in his State of the State speech this week, calling for
new laws to "fight this illicit drug and to attack these toxic labs."

His proposal, an aide said, would make it illegal to possess the
equipment and chemicals for making meth. There would be enhanced
penalties for setting up a lab in a public place such as a hotel room,
and offenders would have to pay for cleaning up labs, which are often
hazardous materials sites.

According to those who track the drug, the state cannot act too

In just four months, the number of lab seizures exceeds that of either
of the last two years. Authorities found 18 labs statewide in 2000 and
14 the year before.

Meth has spread like an ink blot across the country, starting in
California and moving through the Midwest. Local officials say it has
now reached the Cincinnati region and could become a major problem in
the months ahead.

Seizures in Cincinnati went from zero in 1999 to 105.19 grams last
year, and two labs were found within the city. Still, meth seizures
were one-tenth that of crack and less than a fifth that of cocaine,
according to city police records.

"It's not huge like cocaine," said Det. Brian Cochran, of the
Northern Kentucky Drug Strike Force. "But with the labs coming, we
will see a lot more."

Traditionally, meth has been a drug manufactured and used by white
males, often belonging to motorcycle clubs.

Of the 22 labs in the Cincinnati region this year, only one has been
operated by a non-white, an official said. None have been run by
juveniles or women.

Meth users are typically already using cocaine or crack regularly.
Meth provides a similar high and costs just a little more per gram,
about $100. But meth users get more bang for their buck: They can get
more doses per gram and the high lasts longer, said Frank Magoch, DEA
assistant special agent in charge of Ohio field operations.

The drug has spread across the country largely by word of mouth, from
one manufacturer to another. Ingredients are relatively easy to find,
the directions easy to follow and the laboratories small enough to fit
in a car trunk.

For an investment of about $100, a dealer could make meth with a
street value of $1,200.

Meth labs have mainly started in rural areas where manufacturers have
fewer worries about noxious fumes and ready access to a key
ingredient, anhydrous ammonia fertilizer.

Like the manufacturers, users have tended to be older, lower-income
and white. But as the drug becomes more prevalent, authorities expect
the manufacture and use to reach across all demographic lines.
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