Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Pending methamphetamine bills being watched closely

The Idaho state legislature is modeling itself after Oklahoma to stem the distribution of the chemical precursors to Methamphetamine. The Pocatello Idaho State Journal reports:

By Dan Boyd - Journal Writer

BOISE - With two separate bills pending in the Legislature on the topic of methamphetamine, state lawmakers in Boise appear determined to stem the tide of the dangerous drug.

While the two bills differ slightly, they both focus on making it more difficult for manufacturers of methamphetamine, also known as speed or crank, to obtain necessary amounts of key ingredients.

"We're not going to stop these people," Sen. Mike Burkett of Boise told the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee on Monday. "The question is, can we create the tools to ... lead to their apprehension."

Burkett's bill would make certain cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient found in many decongestants, be sold by vendors behind the counter, as is typically done with cigarettes, and would impose a monthly limit on such purchases.

The other measure, sponsored by four Representatives, would make those who purchase pseudoephedrine do so through a pharmacist, though a prescription would not be needed.

Gel caps would be excluded from the bill, since they can not be easily made into methamphetamine.

A similar law passed recently in Oklahoma has lowered the amount of meth labs by 65 percent, according to published reports.

But Vic Pearson with the Bannock County Prosecutor's Office, who handled more than 250 felony drug cases for the county last year, said the majority of methamphetamine now comes from Mexican "super labs" which produce the drug in massive quantities.

In southeast Idaho, law enforcement, corporations and concerned citizens and prosecutors are all watching the proceedings from a distance, each with their ideas and concerns.

At Maag's Medical Supply and Pharmacy in Pocatello, owner Greg Maag said Tuesday you could ask 50 different pharmacists about the bill and receive 50 different responses.

But he likes the idea of pharmacists controlling certain medications, instead of grouping medications as either prescription or over-the-counter.

However, Maag warns such legislation could also have unintended implications.

"Say you're hunting in Dubois and you need a decongestant," he said. "Sometimes, when laws get written, these legislators have never been behind the counter on a daily basis."

The effects of legislation regarding methamphetamine is also being tracked by some of the region's largest industrial plants, including the Monsanto Co. in Soda Springs.

Trent Clark, director of public and governmental affairs for Monsanto, said the company is tracking any methamphetamine legislation to determine if they're impacted.

Phosphorus, one of Monsanto's primary products, is another ingredient used in the making of meth and though currently proposed legislation doesn't address phosphorus, Clark and other Monsanto officials are aware of the possibility.

Some meth manufacturers purchase large quantities of matchbooks to obtain the necessary amount of phosphorus, an occurrence which can't be prevented under current laws.

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives put off a vote on behind-the-counter sale of pseudoephedrine, but the measure is likely to be revisited later this week.

On the Senate side, a hearing on Burkett's bill is also expected to be scheduled soon.

In southeast Idaho, Pearson, Maag, Clark and others will be watching and planning for the consequences.

About damn time!

Come on California!

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