Pubdate: Wed, 03 Feb 2010
Source: Clarion-Ledger, The (Jackson, MS)
Copyright: 2010 Associated Press
Author: Shelia Byrd
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


The Senate on Tuesday sent to the governor House Bill 512, which 
supporters say is designed to curtail the state's escalating meth 
activity. The House earlier passed the bill. Gov. Haley Barbour said 
he would sign the bill.

The law would go into effect July 1. Oregon passed a similar law in 2006.

Barbour said the new law would "make it more difficult to obtain the 
ingredients for this drug that tears families apart and harms many of 
our communities. Meth labs threaten public safety, and I don't think 
there is any doubt we will see a drop in the number of labs in our state."

Only four senators voted against the bill. They were Sens. John 
Horhn, D-Jackson; Walter Michel, R-Jackson; Willie Simmons, 
D-Cleveland; and Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville.

Dozens of law enforcement officials, including Mississippi Bureau of 
Narcotics Director Marshall Fisher, were in the Senate gallery 
listening to the debate. Many of them have said they're "sick" of the 
toll the drug has taken across the state, where 981 arrests were made 
in 2009 and nearly 600 meth labs were seized.

Pelahatchie Police Chief Glenda Shoemaker called the legislation "a 
blessing." Shoemaker said meth has become a problem in her town of 
1,500, located in central Mississippi. She said four meth labs have 
been busted in recent years, a significant number for her town's 
size. "These are people I know. People I love. I can't do anything 
for them, and it just makes me want to cry," Shoemaker said, 
referring to local addicts.

Drug manufacturers had lobbied lawmakers for a real-time tracking 
system instead of the prescription bill. They've said the 
prescription bill likely will lead to meth addicts and cooks crossing 
state lines to get the ingredients.

Andy Fish, senior vice president of Consumer Healthcare Products 
Association, a group that represents over-the-counter drug 
manufacturers, said Mississippi had taken a step back in the fight 
against meth.

"By turning down a sophisticated electronic tracking system in favor 
of prescription status, Mississippi will be allowing meth cooks to 
move from doctor to doctor and from clinic to clinic to amass large 
amounts of pseudoephedrine," Fish said.

Senate Judiciary B Committee Chairman Gray Tollison, D-Oxford, said 
the legislation would require prescriptions for about 10 drugs: Advil 
Cold and Sinus, Aleve D, Bronkaid, Claritin D, Mucinex D, Nyquil D, 
Primatene, Sudafed, Tylenol Sinus Severe Cold and Zyrtec D.

However, Tollison said there were still 24 other products available 
to treat cold symptoms that are manufactured with the drug phenylephrine.

Not everyone is pleased about the bill. Letha Wiley, 62, of Sardis 
said putting the restrictions on pseudoephedrine, a decongestant, 
won't stop meth addicts.

"That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Everybody can't afford to 
go to the doctor," Wiley said. "(Addicts) are going to do what they 
want to do. Lawmakers have got more important issues to deal with."

Tollison said after Oregon passed its law, the number of meth labs 
decreased by 96 percent. Tollison said the drug is also costly to combat.

Meth cooks have graduated from the typical labs to a new "shake and 
bake" method of manufacturing the drug. The pills are crushed, 
combined with some common household chemicals and then shaken in a 
soda bottle. The latest method can, however, still produce powerful explosions.

Cleaning a contaminated meth site could cost the state as much as 
$7,000, Tollison said.

There were several unsuccessful attempts to amend the bill, including 
proposals to limit to $5 and $10 the fee doctors could charge for a 
prescription and to create a task force to study the issue.

Fish said pseudoephedrine sales in Mississippi are only a fraction of 
the national market.

"The issue at stake is not our profits here but consumer access to a 
needed medicine and the opportunity for Mississippi to lead the 
nation in the next step of the meth lab fight," Fish said.

Similar prescription legislation has been introduced in Georgia, 
Missouri and Washington, according to Consumer Healthcare Products Association.
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