Pubdate: Thu, 15 May 2008
Source: Birmingham News, The (AL)
Copyright: 2008 The Birmingham News
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


The numbers were headed in the right direction:

In 2004, law officers shut down 404 methamphetamine labs as the
scourge was sweeping across parts of Alabama, especially in rural
areas. The next year, the Legislature passed a state law that made it
harder to buy the main ingredients in meth. In 2005, there were 276
meth lab busts in the state, dropping to 193 in 2006 and 127 in 2007,
according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Clearly, the
new law was having an effect, as were enforcement efforts. That law
required retailers to put over-the-counter products with
pseudoephedrine and ephedrine behind the counter, and made buyers show
a photo ID and sign a log.

But this year, the numbers to date reflect a worsening trend instead of
continued decreases in the number of lab busts. Law enforcement officials
blame the problem on a meth recipe new to Alabama: a simpler, "one-pot"
cooking method that takes fewer ingredients and can be mostly completed in a
two-liter plastic soft drink bottle, authorities say.

Talladega County drug agents have found 70 of the "one-pot" or "shake
and bake" meth labs since October, compared with 45 meth labs found in
all of 2007; a drug task force in DeKalb County has found 26 labs this
year, compared with 38 in all of 2007; the drug task force for Calhoun
and Cleburne counties has found more meth labs, including one-pot
labs, in the first three months of this year than during all of 2007,
authorities say.

"It's like somebody turned on a spigot," said Jason Murray, commander
of the Talladega County Drug Task Force.

Law enforcement officials consider meth to be the No. 1 drug threat in
the state, and it's easy to see why. Meth is highly addictive, cheap
and easily made in makeshift labs with readily available

In a way, the recent rise in the number of one-pot labs is a product
of the 2005 state law's success. Meth cooks are resorting to the
one-pot method, at least in part, because it's harder to get larger
quantities needed for bigger labs, according to Matt Germanowski, a
supervisor in the DEA's Birmingham office.

The 2005 law limited sales to six grams of ephedrine or
pseudoephedrine products in one month per person. That amount is lower
than what many states with similar laws allow, but month in, month
out, that's still adds up to a lot of decongestant and cold medicine.
The Legislature may need to consider setting an even lower limit on
the amount of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine a person can buy legally
each month.

Even as the number of mom-and-pop meth labs busted has been dropping
until this year, law enforcement faces another problem: A more pure
form of the drug known as "ice" is being brought into Alabama mainly
by Mexican drug traffickers, according to the DEA. While Germanowski
said enforcement efforts have reduced the supply of imported meth, it
remains a big problem in some places in Alabama. In DeKalb County, for
example, about 16,000 of the 26,000 grams of meth seized last year
were ice.

Law enforcement officials can redouble their efforts to limit the
supply of meth, but the real challenge is limiting the public demand.
Until that changes for the better - and a recent ad campaign aimed at
scaring teens away from meth should help - there will always be
statistics showing too many meth lab busts.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin