Pubdate: Mon, 03 Jul 2006
Source: Alamogordo Daily News (NM)
Copyright: 2006 Alamogordo News
Author: Walter Rubel, Santa Fe Bureau Chief
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


SANTA FE The state"s crackdown on methamphetamine production and 
sales continues, as new laws take effect limiting the availability of 
pseudoephedrine and toughening the penalties for trafficking meth.

This is the second time in three years the Legislature has acted to 
control the spread of meth in New Mexico. Two years ago, it passed a 
bill making it child abuse to manufacture the drug in the presence of 
children, and taking the first step to control the ingredients used 
meth production.

Herman Silva, the state"s drug-enforcement czar, said the new laws 
and increased law enforcement attention paid to meth are making a 
difference. Silva said he thinks meth use in New Mexico likely peaked 
in 2003, but said other statistics, such as drug-related visits to 
hospital emergency rooms are still trending upward.

While the legislation which took effect Saturday is targeted at 
methamphetamine users and sellers, one of the bills could also have 
an impact on those simply looking for relief from the sneezes and 
sniffles of a common cold.

Starting Saturday, all cold medications with pseudoephedrine will no 
longer be available over the counter. To purchase those products, 
consumers will now need to show an ID and sign a log registering 
their purchase, and will be limited to nine grams of pseudoephedrine 
within a 30-day period.

Rep. John Heaton, D-Carlsbad, who sponsored the bill, said any 
inconvenience it may cause to customers is more than outweighed by 
the positive effects the bill will have in limiting the drug"s availability.

"Meth is the number-one, without-question, scourge in the United 
States today," Heaton said. "And this is one step to prevent it."

Heaton noted that surrounding states like Colorado, Texas and 
Oklahoma have all passed similar legislation.

"If we don"t pass this, we become an island that is a refuge for 
people buying pseudoephedrine and making meth out of it," Heaton said.

Dale Tinker, executive director of the New Mexico Pharmaceutical 
Association, said his group supports the new law.

"This law kind of matched the federal law that was being discussed at 
the time," he said. "Our intent was to remove the products that could 
be used locally, so there wouldn"t be so many meth labs in people"s 
houses. And around the country, similar laws have been very effective 
in accomplishing that."

Tinker said most pharmacies in New Mexico have already moved products 
with pseudoephedrine behind the counter.

"What this does in the pharmacies is it creates a little more 
paperwork, a little more hassle at the pharmacy level, but we have 
not had any major complaints from consumers, because there are 
alternative products available," Tinker said.

A legislative analysis of the bill notes that the drug manufacturing 
industry has converted many of the products that contained 
pseudoephedrine by replacing it with phenylphrine, another decongestant.

The bill also requires the state Board of Pharmacy to track prices 
and ensure that the new controls do not result in a price increase.

The Board of Pharmacy has suggested future legislation targeted at 
possession of large quantities of pseudoephedrine. Under its proposed 
legislation, quantities exceeding 18 grams would Advertisementbe 
considered possession with intent to manufacture and be a fourth-degree felony.

The second bill, sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. 
Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, puts the sale of methamphetmaine on 
par with that of other drugs such as cocaine and heroine under the 
state"s Controlled Substances Act. That means a first-time conviction 
will be a second degree felony, and any subsequent convictions will 
be first degree felonies.

Cervantes said the state has done a good job of busting up meth labs 
here, but now more drugs are coming across the border.

"To take the battle to the next level, our focus has to be on 
distribution and trafficking," Cervantes said.

The bill, which was originally proposed by Gov. Bill Richardson, also 
expands the drug free school zone law to include private and parochial schools.

"We can do a lot better than telling our kids just say no. We can 
made sure they don"t have access to drugs at school," Cervantes said.

Other bills passed by the 2006 Legislature which took effect Saturday 
HB8 (Campos) Creates new tax deductions for hospital construction 
under specific conditions. HB80 (Balderas) Standardizes and updates a 
wide variety of financial crimes. HB112 (B. Lujan) Creates 
government-supported individual bank accounts with limited uses for 
low-income families. HB274 (Silva) Allows Bernalillo County to 
increase its health care gross receipts tax. HB325 (Varela) Provides 
a tax deduction for counselors, therapists and social workers. HB337 
(Saavedra) Creates additional judgeships. HB381 (Arnold-Jones) Allows 
school bus operators to claim a refund for the special fuel excise 
tax. HB386 (Arnold-Jones) Changes provisions to the unclaimed 
property statute. HB388 (Arnold-Jones) Requires the Tax Department to 
provide notice when withholding a refund. HB410 (Heaton) Allows the 
Environment Department to enter into voluntary fee agreements with 
regulated facilities. HB494 (Gutierez) Creates new loan fund for 
environmental cleanup projects. HB535 (King) Allows funds to be used 
for the enforcement of weight-distance tax identification permits. 
HB577 (B. Lujan) Toughens penalty for illegal recording of a movie. 
HB583 (Wirth) Makes receipts from licensing property for use in New 
Mexico subject to state taxes. HB668 (Martinez) Adds four members to 
the Compilation Commission. SB21 (Martinez) Increases earned 
meritorious deduction available to nonviolent offenders. SB157 (M. 
Sanchez) Prohibits computer-assisted hunting. SB227 (Robinson) 
Transfers the film museum to the Department of Cultural Affairs. 
SB613 (Fidel) Allows supervisors of water conservation districts to 
participate in insurance program.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman