Pubdate: Sat, 13 Nov 2004
Source: Messenger-Inquirer (KY)
Copyright: 2004 Messenger-Inquirer
Author: Owen Covington, Messenger-Inquirer
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Drug Ingredients More Easily Gathers Outside Kentucky

In Georgia, a person can walk into a drug store, buy five packages of cold 
medicine and walk out the door without the clerk or area police raising an 

In Kentucky, the same scenario could lead to the arrest of the clerk and 
the customer on felony drug charges.

The difference? Many cold medicines contain pseudoephedrine, which can be 
used to produce methamphetamine. Last year, only 17 methamphetamine labs 
were seized in Georgia while nearly 300 were seized in Kentucky, according 
to Drug Enforcement Administration statistics.

As Kentucky has taken steps to limit access to this primary ingredient in 
methamphetamine, manufacturers of the drug have looked to neighboring 
states to gather materials.

But with methamphetamine use and production continuing to spread through 
the South and Midwest, more states are working to stifle methamphetamine 
production at the source as Kentucky has.

Daviess County Sheriff Keith Cain said narcotics investigators have found 
evidence indicating meth cooks are going to other states to gather enough 
cold medicine to make batches of methamphetamine.

"We'll find receipts after transactions where people will make a circuit 
through southern Indiana," Cain said.

In some cases, suspects have bought just a few packs of cold medicine in 
Tell City, Ind., then in Evansville, before traveling to buy more in 
Henderson and then in Owensboro, he said.

Sgt. Brock Peterson, supervisor of the Owensboro Police Department's street 
crimes unit, said the ability of meth cookers to obtain pseudoephedrine 
from nearby states is a significant problem.

"Basically, because other states don't have the methamphetamine problem we 
have, they don't know," Peterson said. "It's an ongoing battle."

On Sept. 30, Kentucky State Police investigators working off of a tip 
arrested two Lewisport residents who they said had been making trips from 
Owensboro to Georgia to obtain large amounts of pseudoephedrine.

According to their indictments, 51-year-old Dennis B. Cartwright and 
25-year-old Vanessa Lynn Jennings had bought nearly 7,000 pills containing 
pseudoephedrine from a wholesaler in Atlanta to bring back to Kentucky.

The pair were indicted Nov. 11 on charges of criminal attempt to 
manufacture methamphetamine and unlawful possession of a methamphetamine 

"We've not seen a tremendous amount of those (types of cases)," Cain said. 
"But certainly there are individuals who can identify those sources."

Often, methamphetamine users will gather the ingredients to trade for the 
finished product, Peterson said. Meth cooks need between 1,000 and 1,500 
pills to manufacture an ounce of methamphetamine, he said.

Peterson said there have also been cases where meth producers will send 
people to Nashville to round up the needed ingredients.

"There's a whole subculture," he said. "It gets to be a fairly large circle 
of people."

In 2002, Kentucky took steps to stifle the production of methamphetamine in 
the state with legislation criminalizing the sale or possession of large 
quantities of pseudoephedrine.

Except for pharmacists or distributors, possession of more than 24 grams of 
ephedrine or pseudoephedrine was established as evidence of intent to 
manufacture methamphetamine, and is now a felony.

Also, the distribution of products containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine 
to someone they know will use it to produce methamphetamine or with 
reckless disregard for how the products will be used also became a felony.

After Indiana's Methamphetamine Abuse Task Force issued its report late 
last month, Indiana state Rep. Trent Van Haaften proposed regulating the 
supply of over-the-counter cold medicines to crack down on methamphetamine 

The proposed legislation would require retailers to store cold medication 
behind the counter, require purchasers to provide valid photo 
identification and sign for the products, and limit the number a people who 
could buy in a specific period of time.

In Tennessee, state legislation established a "meth watch" program, which 
is a voluntary program through which retailers are educated about the sale 
of products commonly used to manufacture methamphetamine and encouraged to 
monitor the sale of those products.

Elizabeth Assey with the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which 
sponsors the national Meth Watch program, said the program was modeled 
after one in Kansas and has now expanded to eight states.

"It's really about educating retailers, getting them involved with law 
enforcement, and helping the community understand," Assey said. "It is a 
piece of the overall solution."

Peterson said many Daviess County retailers have already been practicing 
much of what Meth Watch advocates, including limiting sales of cold 
medicine to two packages, keeping the products behind the counter and 
alerting police to customers going from store to store to purchase cold 

"I think several retail stores here have done a super job of letting us 
know," Peterson said. "Most of the stores are self-regulating."

Kentucky Rep. Brent Yonts, who represents Muhlenberg, Christian and Hopkins 
counties, proposed legislation this year similar to that proposed by Van 
Haaften, but it met resistance from retailers.

Yonts said he is hoping to propose legislation next year to establish a 
meth watch program in Kentucky, which he hopes will be better received.

"I think there will be something happening this time," Yonts said.
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