Pubdate: Thu, 24 Dec 2009
Source: Redlands Daily Facts (CA)
Copyright: 2009 Los Angeles Newspaper group
Author: Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


The California Department of Justice will receive $600,000 from the
federal government to battle methamphetamine production and
distribution in San Bernardino County.

On Dec. 17, President Barack Obama signed into law a $447 billion
omnibus federal spending bill, which secured the grant money
Congressman Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands, helped secure.

The Justice Department will use the $600,000 for a methamphetamine
interdiction program in San Bernardino County, which would pull
resources from local and federal law enforcement agencies, including
the Sheriff's Department and Drug Enforcement Administration, to
dismantle superlabs and large-scale drug organizations.

San Bernardino and Riverside counties are still considered "target
rich" areas for large-scale methamphetamine production and
distribution, said Kent Shaw, assistant chief of the Justice
Department's Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement.

Though California no longer holds the crown for having the most
clandestine meth labs of any other state in the nation, it still leads
the country in the amount of methamphetamine produced. That's because
it has more superlabs - labs capable of producing 10 or more pounds of
the drug in a single cook - than any other state.

"California, which for many years was number one by far, has slipped
to eight or ninth in terms of labs seized, but the labs are so large
that production capacity exceeds the five top states combined," Shaw

Lewis has helped secure funding in the past to help the county combat
its meth problem and to implement a statewide methamphetamine strategy
task force.

"Our county has the unfortunate distinction of being the
methamphetamine capital of the United States, and the drugs produced
here are a scourge throughout the Western states," Lewis said in a
statement. "I am grateful that my colleagues agreed that we must
invest federal dollars in helping to combat this terrible problem, and
find ways to undermine and eliminate the trafficking in this drug."

In 2008, there were 19 superlabs found in the U.S., 17 of which were
in California, said Ken Pogue, a state deputy attorney general and
legislative advocate who applied for the grant.

"We're seeing an increase in the number of meth labs in California,
and that's in large part because Mexico has made pseudoephedrine a
banned substance," said Pogue. "So what you're seeing is is it's a lot
easier for these drug trafficking organizations to make meth in
California rather than in Mexico."

The Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 (CMEA) placed
regulations on over-the-counter sales of products containing
ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, and phenylpropanolamine, all of which can
be used in the manufacture of methamphetamine.

It forced a large number of methamphetamine producers/distributors to
move their operations south of the border into Mexico, where ephedrine
and pseudoephedrine were easily accessible.

As a result, San Bernardino County saw a more than 50 percent decline
in the number of meth labs seized by sheriff's deputies.

In 2006, deputies seized 53 labs. In 2007, they dismantled 21,
followed by 20 in 2008 and only seven so far this year, sheriff's
spokeswoman Jodi Miller said.

In January 2008, Mexico banned ephedrine and pseudoephedrine products,
and authorities are now starting to see a reversal of trend. They have
seen more and more labs and superlabs emerge across Southern
California and the Central Valley in the last year.

In 2005, Oregon passed a law restricting the sale of medications
containing pseudoephedrine, and was the first state in the nation to
require a doctor's prescription for such medications.

Mexico and Oregon have the right idea, Shaw said, and California and
other states should follow their lead.

The big obstacle, Shaw said, is the Consumer Healthcare Product
Association (CHPA), which opposes such regulations and lobbies on
behalf of pharmaceutical companies that manufacture products with

CHPA spokeswoman Elizabeth Funderburk couldn't be reached for comment

"If you control pseudoephedrine, you control the meth lab problem,"
Shaw said. 
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