Pubdate: Mon, 07 Mar 2005
Source: Messenger-Inquirer (KY)
Copyright: 2005 Messenger-Inquirer
Author: Keith Cain, Daviess County Sheriff
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


The growing availability of methamphetamine, as a result of the clandestine 
manufacturing of the drug, has become a serious challenge to local law 
enforcement. These "labs" are makeshift operations that use a simplistic 
methodology and produce high-quality meth but are extremely unstable and 

As the quantity of the drug increases, so does the potential for its abuse. 
Meth increases crime (particularly violent crime, as unpredictable 
aggressive behavior is symptomatic with its use), and its addictive 
qualities turn seemingly normal lives into nightmares.

The problem deserves our best collective efforts. Such were the findings of 
the governor's drug summit last spring, a comprehensive approach addressing 
not only law enforcement, but preventive and rehabilitative efforts as well.

One such initiative is Senate Bill 63, which has passed the Senate and 
House. This bill, sponsored by Sen. Robert Stivers with the support of the 
Justice Cabinet, would address the problem on a number of fronts.

First, it would limit the availability of pseudoephedrine (which is 
converted into methamphetamine in these labs) by restricting the amount 
that can be purchased to nine grams (from the current 24-gram limit) and 
mandating the drug be dispensed by a pharmacist or pharmacist technician 
only. These people would be required to keep an accurate log of all people 
purchasing the drug. This record would be subject to inspection by local, 
state or federal law enforcement officials.

At a recent hearing on this bill before the House Judiciary Committee, one 
member suggested the examination of these records raised Fourth Amendment 
issues. It is important to note that similar laws currently in effect 
regulate controlled substances (and even hypodermic needles) and allow 
officers to make warrantless inspections of those documents. This is not 
precedent-setting legislation.

Others suggested this move would restrict locally owned convenience stores 
that have no pharmacy from dispensing the drug. Certainly this would 
result; however, the intent of the legislation, again, is to limit the 
drug's availability. To place it behind the counter of each retail outlet 
that carries the commodity would do little, if anything, to hinder those 
who currently travel from store to store purchasing the legal limit of 
pseudoephedrine until they have amassed sufficient quantities to convert 
methamphetamine. Surveillance of such locations by our officers within the 
past two weeks alone resulted in 14 people being charged with this illegal 
practice. Four were determined to be in possession of meth when arrested, 
and two of these people were determined to have prior meth-related convictions.

Also, there is an enforcement issue if this were to be allowed. It is one 
thing to periodically inspect all pharmacies in our area, and it is quite 
another to visit every single retail outlet that currently dispenses this drug.

Concern has also been expressed by some that this bill would result in 
people not being able to obtain these over-the-counter cold remedies after 
hours. This bill addresses only hard dose (tablets) containing 
pseudoephedrine, not gel caps or liquid medication, neither of which lends 
itself to the meth manufacturing process.

Indeed, there has been mention of the "sacrifice" the legitimate consumer 
will be called upon to make should these restrictions be implemented. While 
there will be some inconvenience to the consumer and perhaps a concession 
on the part of our retailers, neither in my opinion constitutes a 
"sacrifice." To do so belittles the dignity of the term.

SB63 also calls for enhanced penalties of those people convicted of 
manufacturing meth in close proximity to our children. These makeshift 
laboratories are extremely dangerous. They emit toxic vapors, poisonous 
gasses and are extremely volatile.

SB63 also would allow the prosecution of people deemed to be in possession 
of two or more of meth-making ingredients, as long as the intent to make 
the drug is present.

Finally, the bill has been amended to contain elements of Attorney General 
Greg Stumbo's HB 343, which would regulate Internet pharmacies that sell 
drugs, including meth ingredients, to state residents.

Much has been said about what needs to be done about meth. SB63 is evidence 
of this administration's resolve to not only do something, but something 
that has a proven record of success. Oklahoma passed similar legislation in 
2004. Within eight months, the state documented a 50 percent reduction in 
meth laboratories.

SB63 is not, nor should it be viewed as a panacea that will eliminate meth 
from our communities. It will, however, provide law enforcement with a more 
effective means to rid our commonwealth of this menace.
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager