Sunday, February 13, 2005

Alabama Tightens the Law for Methamphetamine Precursor Chemicals

The Mobile Register

Local lawmakers push for new tool in fighting meth

Saturday, February 12, 2005
Staff Reporter

Likening the proliferation of the use and manufacture of methamphetamine in Mobile County to a kind of Biblical plague, local lawmakers and law enforcers on Friday pushed a new legislative tool they say can combat the scourge.

State Sen. Gary Tanner, D-Theodore, said a bill he sponsored would heat up the fight against the drug, and it passed unanimously in the Alabama Senate on Thursday. It is expected to win approval by the House as well.

That bill makes it a crime to possess any single "precursor substance," as defined by law, with the intent of manufacturing meth.

Tanner, Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson and Mobile Police Chief Sam Cochran stood together in the atrium of Government Plaza on Friday to talk about the bill.

"The methamphetamine epidemic in Alabama has destroyed lives, broken up families, filled our jails and tied up the criminal system," Tanner said.

But despite law enforcement's best efforts, the senator said, the growth of the drug's use and manufacture in the state "has truly taken off like kudzu."

With his bill, Tanner said, it would be a felony to possess, in any quantity, any single element of the variety of often over-the-counter ingredients used in making methamphetamine as long as authorities can prove that the possessor intended to make meth with that ingredient.

Tanner, Tyson and Cochran suggested that the bill is not designed to give law enforcement officials license to haul someone in who happens to possess Sudafed.

"That's not going to be enough" to justify an arrest, Tyson said.

The urgency and need for this kind of tougher law enforcement tool, the men said, has never been greater.

"This cheap, addictive drug must be stopped, and those who make it and sell it must be put in prison," Tanner said.

Tyson said Mobile County has, in just a few years, gone from a community hardly aware of what methamphetamine is to handling hundreds of cases a year centered on the drug.

Cochran said the deadly effect on users is a new kind of threat.

The drug "brings out the worst in people," Cochran said. "It brings out the worst in their paranoia."

From deadly fires caused by the mixing of some of the volatile materials used in the manufacture of methamphetamine to the penchant for violence it brings out in users, serious crimes involving the drug are on the rise, Tyson and Cochran said.

The need for additional laws to fight the problem, Tanner said, has not been lost on lawmakers.

"This is just one step in reducing the damage that is being inflicted on our families and community from the production of the drug meth," Tanner said.

The recommendations of the Oregonian Series are starting to spread nationwide as the Unnecessary Epidemic spreads its misery. Hopefully, laws will be adopted quickly and the supply of this drug scourage interrupted.

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