Pubdate: Fri, 11 Nov 2005
Source: Asheville Citizen-Times (NC)
Copyright: 2005 Asheville Citizen-Times
Author: Ellyn Ferguson
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


N.C. Attorney General Says Federal Law Would Stifle
Manufacturing Of Drug

WASHINGTON -- North Carolina's top law enforcement official believes
Congress could slow the spread of methamphetamine on the East Coast
with a federal law limiting sales of cold medications that contain a
key ingredient for making the drug.

"I think ... Congress could provide a great preventive measure for the
East Coast," N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper said.

Cooper is following anti-meth legislation as it makes its way through

North Carolina has seen the number of meth lab seizures rise from nine
in 1999 to 280 by late October of this year. Most of those labs were
in Western North Carolina, reflecting the eastward push of the meth

Lawmakers hope to pass legislation this year or early 2006 aimed at
curbing the importation of pseudoephedrine, meth's main ingredient,
and limit the amount of pseudoephedrine-based cold medicines or
decongestants a person can buy.

Restricting the sale of cold medicines such as Sudafed is an idea
borrowed from Oklahoma and several other states. North Carolina has
passed a similar law that will take effect Jan. 15.

Cooper said he believes a comprehensive approach involves limits on
sales, tougher penalties on meth lab operators and incentives for drug

The Senate and House have tackled importation and limits on sales
differently, but it appears at this point that the House may take the
lead with its bill.

The House measure would require cold medicine buyers to show
identification and limit their purchases at any one time to 3.6 grams,
or 110 tablets. The measure also would allow judges to impose stiffer
penalties for possession of ingredients used to make meth. And it
would authorize $99 million a year for meth lab cleanup and $40
million over two years for services for children affected by meth.

Cooper said he would like to see Congress also provide more money for
everyday law enforcement needs. He argued that state and local police
departments can use basic crime-fighting equipment for both drug and
nondrug investigations.

In particular, he said, North Carolina could do with some federal
money "because our outdated fingerprint system is becoming obsolete
and will have to be replaced."

The bipartisan 130-member Meth Caucus in the House is also calling for
increased federal spending for programs that provide money to hire
more police officers and fund drug task forces.

The caucus fired off a letter Thursday to the Office of National Drug
Control Policy outlining what lawmakers believe should be the Bush
administration's priorities in dealing with the drug.

"It is time for the administration, working with state and local
officials, to develop a comprehensive plan to stop the spread of meth
production and use," said co-chair Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif.

Calvert's Democratic counterpart, Rep. Rick Larsen of Washington
state, also chided the administration.

"We will not let up until this administration recognizes that there is
a meth epidemic in this country and executes a federal response equal
to the magnitude of this growing problem," Larsen said.

Caucus members and the administration have been jousting for much of
this year over the meth drug problem. The members say the
administration has been slow to make anti-meth efforts a priority
because it sees the drug problem as largely a regional and rural issue.

While Cooper would welcome help from the federal government, he said
the states would probably move more quickly on the problem.

"We're going to have to try to stay a step ahead. Congress moves
slowly. You can see that in the case of the Midwest taking action (in
limiting pseudoephedrine-based drugs). Congress is still trying to
pass a law," Cooper said.
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