Pubdate: Thu, 01 Sep 2005
Source: Asheville Citizen-Times (NC)
Copyright: 2005 Asheville Citizen-Times
Author: Lindsay Nash, and The Associated Press
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


The North Carolina House wrapped up its work for the year Wednesday by
giving final approval to an anti-metamphetamine bill.

The legislation agreed with a Senate bill that would keep popular cold
tablets behind a pharmacy counter. The medicine contains an ingredient
used in the illegal manufacturing of methamphetamine.

The measure is weaker than one previously approved in the House that
some supporters believed to be the toughest of its kind in the nation.

The measure headed to Gov. Mike Easley's desk requires all cold
tablets containing pseudoephedrine and ephedrine to be sold behind a
pharmacy counter.

Adults would have to show a photo identification and sign a log before
buying the medicine. They would be limited to no more than two
products at once and three a month.

Most liquid, gel-capsule and children's forms of the medicines will
remain available on retail store aisles. Investigators say it's
difficult to make meth from those products.

North Carolina law follows other states trying to curb production of
the highly addictive synthetic drug produced in an escalating number
of clandestine labs.

Federal officials earlier this week announced that eight Western North
Carolina counties accounted for 70 of 427 meth arrests made nationwide
in the first nationally coordinated operation targeting meth producers
and sellers.

Police in more than 200 cities joined Drug Enforcement Administration
agents in "Operation Wildfire," designed to fight against the spread
of methamphetamine use and abuse.

The operation followed intense criticism from members of Congress and
local law enforcement that the federal government is not doing enough
to combat the county's meth problem. More than half the 500 sheriffs
in a recent survey called meth their top problem, far surpassing
cocaine and marijuana.

"It's the most popular drug in the western district," said Macon
County Sheriff Robert Holland, who made 22 meth arrests over two days
as part of the recent operation.

In North Carolina, law enforcement officers swooped in on 243 labs
last year, up from nine in 1999.

"I definitely associate all of our crimes to the drug some way or
another," Holland said.

Staff Writer Lindsay Nash and The Associated Press compiled this
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