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Stories about meth often touch on the fact that the drug is difficult to legislate against. Laws and regulations can be circumvented and the technology for manufacturing the drug continues to advance.

This is all chronicled in a Knoxville News Sentinel report. In the excerpt below, it’s clear that Knoxville faces the same problem many as cities (Louisville included)–manufacturers/users from rural counties flock to urban areas where drug stores are more concentrated.

Authorities in Knox County said they deal more with addicts on shopping expeditions than with active labs.

“Our biggest problem right now is people from other counties beating down the pharmacy doors,” Knox County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Chris Bryant said. “We have a pharmacy on every block in Knoxville, and they’ll go to each one. They use homeless people a lot. They’ll pull up outside a rescue mission and say, ‘Who wants to make some money?’ “

Police keep getting better at finding and busting labs. Investigators track sales of pseudoephedrine, the common element in meth-making, and can make arrests simply for possession of enough material to start a lab.

The cooks get better, too. They tweak recipes, keep moving and muster small armies of shoppers to stay supplied.

“It’s a cat-and-mouse game,” said Tommy Farmer, director of the Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force. “They know we’re on them, so what they did is find other ways to circumvent the law. These are the results.”

The newest recipe – nicknamed “one-pot” or “shake-and-bake” – travels anywhere and fits in a 20-ounce bottle. A one-pot lab and a handful of pseudoephedrine can make enough meth for the next high in less than an hour.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment act isn’t just fixing streets, it’s cleaning them up. (How’s that for a movie trailer line?)

Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Nevada and New Mexico have been given stimulus grants from the Justice Department to fight meth. The grants will fund two years of salary for state methamphetamine coordinators. The coordinators will work within their state and across borders with their counterparts to fight meth use.

The Rural Blog has more.

When you pass litter on the highway, what do you see? Plastic bottles? Gloves? Cardboard boxes? Those could be meth lab components.

As car-based mobile meth labs increase, so does toxic roadside litter. The New York Times reports that manufacturers are fond of tossing spent lab equipment out the window.

Each trash lab becomes a crime scene and is proof, officials said, that a new and ever more popular way of making meth does not demand a lot of space or a lot of pseudoephedrine, an essential ingredient. The new method is a quick, mobile, one-pot recipe that requires only a few pills, a two-liter bottle and some common household chemicals.

Law enforcement officials in several states say that addicts and dealers have become expert at making methamphetamine on the move, often in their cars, and they discard their garbage and chemical byproducts as they go, in an effort to destroy evidence and evade the police.

Just as some states had reported progress in stamping out home-based meth labs, this transportable process has presented a new challenge: 65 percent of meth lab seizures in Tennessee, for instance, are now the one-pot, or “shake-and-bake,” variety. The number of meth labs seized in Oklahoma last year increased to 743 from 148 just four years ago, largely because of the prevalence of moving labs. In Indiana, the state police reported that meth lab seizures rose nearly 27 percent from 2008 to 2009.

Mr. Wargo attributed at least half of the new meth activity in Elkhart County to the easier one-pot arrangements. He began seeing the switch in 2008.

“We are so under water on this thing,” he said.

(via)

Mero Councilwoman Vicki Aubrey Welch has pulled her resolution that would ask the General Assembly to make pseudoephedrine a prescription drug.

From a majority caucus press release:

While she still believes it is an important way to fight the rise of Meth labs in Louisville Metro Councilwoman Vicki Aubrey Welch (D-13) has withdrawn her sponsorship of a resolution that would ask lawmakers in Frankfort to make pseudoephedrine a prescription drug.

Her reason; action by lawmakers in Frankfort is not moving forward.

“After learning HB497, the bill to move Pseudoephedrine to a Schedule III drug, has reached a dead end lacking the support to move it any further during this session, I regret to inform you I decided to withdraw the sponsorship of my Resolution,” Welch told the Metro Council on Thursday.

Welch first filed the resolution after a second Meth lab explosion in January in her district which took the life of a young woman and left two children motherless. From then on, she has worked with Louisville Metro Police and additional Public Safety officials and neighborhood groups to move the resolution forward.

“Now let me be clear, I have not nor will I stand idly by and watch this happen to my community I am going to continue to fight the good fight and encourage all of you to join me. However, part of being a effective leader is knowing when to stop and re-evaluate,” said Welch.

The Councilwoman Cited the dramatic increase in Meth labs in Kentucky, a 63% increase in 2009, as one of many reasons why she will keep fighting for the law. She also cited the need for better public awareness of what the law would do and how it would impact the average person who needs cold medications.

“Unfortunately, until we can do a better job educating people and providing accurate, factual information to assist them in making informed decisions as opposed to allowing multi-billion dollar special interest groups to influence their opinions we will continue to see an increase not only in the number of Meth Labs but in the number of children displaced and ultimately the number of deaths,” said Welch.

At the Metro Council meeting on Thursday, the body will vote on a resolution that asks the General Assembly to make pseudoephedrine (PSE) a prescription drug. It’s modeled in part after a law in Oregon that officials say dramatically cut down on meth production.

There’s a PR push against the resolution, and Daviess County Sheriff Keith Cain has penned an op-ed for the Courier-Journal:

To believe the meth problem will go away simply because of this law is naïve. Because meth is so addictive, so popular and so lucrative, cooks will pay smurfers to obtain a prescription. I harbor concern some physicians would prescribe excessive amounts of PSE, as has been the case with many controlled substances. Indeed, the fastest growing substance abuse problem in our Commonwealth today is prescription drugs!

Prescription-only proponents argue that increased meth lab busts prove that e-tracking doesn’t work. In fact, meth lab seizures are up because law enforcement agencies now have the tool they need to track and arrest meth cooks.

The piece doesn’t mention Oregon law, but Cain is concerned that scheduling PSE will cost Kentucky the ability to track purchases.

Here is an article about Oregon’s law. It alleges that imported meth from cartels is on the rise.

One reason why Councilwoman Vicki Welch is trying to make pseudoephedrine a prescription drug is to curb meth production. (Pseudoephedrine is in many cough medicines and can be extracted to make meth.) The state already tracks pseudoephedrine purchases, but meth producers get around that with a process called smurfing, where many people buy the legal amount of cough medicine, then combine their purchases to make meth.

We won’t get into the problems and benefits of taking pseudoephedrine off the shelves (we won’t get into it…yet, but feel free to discuss this in the comments) but I will clear up a common question. Why is it called smurfing?

If you’re in the banking world, you may call it structuring, which is the process of putting together transactions in a way to avoid violating laws like the Bank Secrecy Act. So the street version of structuring is called smurfing not because pseudoephedrine tablets are blue (I don’t think they are) or because meth is blue (though it’s dyed blue in the TV show Breaking Bad) but because the pseudoephedrine buyers are, like the cartoon Smurfs, all tiny parts working together to form a larger whole.

Hopefully that clears it up for the people who Google “Smurfs” and find this site. Also, Shaun White is a snowboarder, Shannon White is a candidate for mayor of Louisville.  I’ve seen a few search hits for “Shannon White Winter Olympics.”

We’ve reported on meth in Louisville, and statewide, meth production is soaring.

From the Kentucky State Police:

KSP reports that there were 716 meth labs in the Commonwealth last year which is an all time high for the state, increasing sixty percent over the 2008 totals.

The last record was set in 2004, when 600 labs were discovered. The production of meth in Kentucky dropped after a 2005 law went into effect requiring that purchases of pseudoephedrine (PSE) tablets be made at pharmacy counters. This ‘pharmacy log’ statute (KRS 218A.1446) had an immediate effect by substantially reducing meth labs in the state by fifty percent over a three-year period.

Major Joseph Williams, Commander for the KSP Special Enforcement Troop, contributes meth’s popularity to the relatively easy cooking process, the highly addictive nature of the drug and the ease of obtaining pseudoephedrine.

It appears that arrests are still not curbing production, and I wonder if the extra lab busts mean better enforcement or more labs and more amateurs making the drug.

If you buy psuedophedrine in Kentucky, there’s a computer system that keeps track of it. If you buy too much, the computer (and, more importantly, the police) decides you’re probably making meth.

Governor Steve Beshear has touted this program’s effectiveness, and now psuedophedrine manufacturers agree. They’ve helped put together the National Precursor Log Exchange, which helps officials track purchases nationwide, if state law allows for it.

The program might help identify possible meth dealers, but LMPD Sgt. Stan Salyards told the C-J that NPLEx is just one tool, and still requires police work and officers on the street.

 

When I did my feature on meth all those months ago, I was surprised to learn about the side-effects meth has in the housing market. The chemicals linger in the houses. When the owners move out (either to jail or somewhere else) the houses aren’t always cleaned (cleaning costs a fortune).

In July we heard about homeowners who were getting sick from the meth made in their houses by the previous owners.

Some states have passed laws requiring sellers to tell buyers of previous meth activity, and now the EPA has laid out the criteria for cleaning up meth houses.

From the Rural Blog:

The Environmental Protection Agency has released its first voluntary blueprints for cleaning up methamphetamine labs, a move that may lead several state agencies to change their practices. About 20 states currently require meth labs to be cleaned up before a new family moves into the home, Christine Byers of the St. Louis Post-Dispatchreports. EPA’s plan describes everything from cleaning carpeting to plumbing, and cost $1.75 million over two years to create.


The St. Louis Post Dispatch has a report on meth’s dwindling audience. We’ve written a lot about meth in the commonwealth, and from those reports it’s clear why, despite the drop in meth use, officials aren’t letting up on wiping out the drug.

From 2006 to 2008, the number of people older than 12 who used meth in the previous month dropped by nearly 60 percent, to 314,000, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. At the same time, illicit drug use of all kinds in the U.S. dropped by less than 4 percent.

The survey results showed fewer people are trying meth, too. The number of people who used the drug for the first time dropped by more than 60 percent, to 95,000.

But law enforcement officials took little solace in the numbers. Meth is seen as a particular scourge because of its highly addictive nature and the toxic waste left behind by its production.

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