Pubdate: Mon, 25 Jul 2005
Source: Asheville Citizen-Times (NC)
Copyright: 2005 Asheville Citizen-Times
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Members of a judiciary committee sent a bill to the full state House 
last week that fails to take the steps needed to rein in North 
Carolina's epidemic of methamphetamine labs.

The committee's proposed bill would continue to allow cold remedies 
that contain an ingredient essential to the manufacture of 
methamphetamine to be sold at any retail outlet, including grocery 
and convenience stores. State Attorney General Roy Cooper is fighting 
for a measure that would place the over-the-counter drugs behind 
pharmacy counters. The drugs in question contain either 
pseudoephedrine or ephedrine.

"I'm concerned that this latest proposal still allows criminals 
access to key meth ingredients at thousands of convenience and 
grocery stores across North Carolina. Law enforcement will struggle 
to keep track of sales, and meth makers will face a detour rather 
than a roadblock," Cooper said of the House version of the bill. "I'm 
pleased that the House has included more penalties but the key to 
stopping this scourge is limiting access to the main ingredient. We 
know that other states have only succeeded in cutting the spread of 
these deadly labs when they put the main ingredient behind a pharmacy counter."

The state Senate passed a version of the bill that would put all 
tablets containing pseudoephedrine, such as Sudafed and Claritin, 
behind the pharmacist's counter, would require customers to show 
photo identification to buy them and would restrict purchases to nine 
grams a month without a prescription.

The state House of Representatives in Oregon has gone even further, 
voting overwhelmingly last week for a bill that would make Oregon the 
first state to require a prescription for certain cold medicines. The 
bill was sent to the Oregon Senate on a 55-4 vote. It is expected to 
pass the Senate and has the support of Oregon's governor.

Meth is a highly addictive drug that leads to psychotic or violent 
behavior and to brain damage. It's cheap to produce and the 
production results in pounds of toxic leftovers that require 
decontamination of the premises where it is manufactured. In other 
words, meth labs are hazardous waste sites that can cost up to 
$20,000 - with taxpayers footing the bill - to clean up.

Since enacting legislation similar to the bill approved by the N.C. 
Senate by a 45-2 vote, Oklahoma has seen an 80 percent drop in meth production.

The evidence is overwhelming that eliminating access to 
pseudoephedrine and ephedrine is the only way to stop highly toxic 
and potentially deadly "mom-and-pop" meth labs, that often endanger 
young children, from springing up all over the state.

Cooper and sheriffs and district attorneys around the state support 
the stricter Senate version. Pharmaceutical companies and the N.C. 
Retail Merchants Association support a weaker alternate version.

It appears the majority of House judiciary committee members paid 
more attention to the lobbyists than to the state's law enforcement 
officers. Here's hoping the full House will do otherwise.
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MAP posted-by: Beth