HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Officials Praise Anti-Meth Law
Pubdate: Mon, 17 Jan 2005
Source: Oklahoman, The (OK)
Copyright: 2005 The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
Author: Carmel Perez Snyder, Capitol Bureau
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


A state law passed last year that restricts the sale of
pseudoephedrine already has saved the state more than a million
dollars, law enforcement officials say. John Duncan, chief agent with
the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, estimates one
meth lab has a $350,000 impact on the state.

"That is a very conservative estimate," Duncan said. "There are a lot
of unknown costs that we can't estimate such as the costs to families
and schools. Health costs that stem from illnesses caused by the
dangerous chemicals found at meth labs, meth use or the effect of meth
on unborn children is probably huge. We just don't know how much it's
really costing us."

Oklahoma's new law, which took effect in April, is credited for
cutting the number of methamphetamine labs by 50 percent to 70
percent. The law restricts the sale of the tablet form of
pseudoephedrine to pharmacies.

In its tablet form, the drug commonly found in allergy and cold
medicines is a key ingredient in meth production.

Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics spokesman Mark Woodward said the state
has had 581 fewer meth lab busts since the measure was adopted.

Meth lab busts in Tulsa decreased from 212 in November and December
2003 to 131 in November and December 2004.

Oklahoma City had a similar decline, going from an average 14.5 lab
busts a month to an average of five a month, Woodward said.

More than 20 other states are considering restricting over-the-counter
cold and allergy medicine sales, according to the National Association
of State Legislatures.

Oregon passed a similar law last year, citing Oklahoma's success.
Kansas is debating a measure.

Gov. Brad Henry has written to the governors of the other states,
encouraging them to adopt similar laws.

"The case I made to them was simple: The more states that restrict
pseudoephedrine sales, the more difficult it will be for
methamphetamine producers and dealers to operate," Henry said. "I'm
thrilled that so many states have responded and followed our lead.
These laws will help curb the meth trade and save lives."

Federal drug officials are cautious about the decline, saying it could
be a result of other factors.

John P. Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Control
Policy, said Oklahoma was not the only state to report a big drop in
meth lab raids. A dozen others had "substantial declines" last year,
he told the Associated Press.

"There is promise in (tight controls), and if states want to do it,
they're free to do it," Walters said. "But we're trying to make sure
we're not blinded by Oklahoma's results to the point where we say this
is it, nothing else works."

Critics of the Oklahoma law say addicts still can buy meth imported
from Mexico and southern California.

"It's true that the majority of meth in the United States doesn't come
from these small labs," Woodward said. "This (law) was never designed
to stop meth use. What this does is stop meth labs from being next
door to where our kids are."

Duncan estimates it costs $3,500 just to have dangerous chemicals
disposed of each time a lab is found. Cleanup of a house or apartment
runs about $17,000.

Oklahoma officials say the state has saved about $1.5 million since
the law was passed.

"I would like to see all 50 states adopt similar statutes," Henry
said. "I also intend to push the U.S. Congress to consider a federal
law that would set the standard nationally. The meth epidemic is a
national problem that must be addressed."
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