Thursday, April 15, 2010

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review

LITTLE ROCK – In large part because of the growing use of "one pot" cooking, the number of meth lab busts in Arkansas has started to climb again.

The frequency of meth labs that were broken up by Arkansas law enforcement agencies dropped greatly after passage of Act 256 of 2005. The law requires consumers to show an ID before they can buy certain cold medications that are used in the manufacture of methamphetamine.

However, law enforcement authorities are concerned that "one pot" cooking allows meth manufacturers to more easily skirt the restrictions in Act 256.

Methamphetamine is an extremely addictive form of speed made from household chemicals that can be purchased legally, such as lawn fertilizer, batteries and lye or drain cleaner. One of the ingredients, pseudoephedrine, is found in common cold medications.

The consumer's name goes into a computer data base so law enforcement authorities can track suspicious purchases, such as a person going all over town buying up the maximum allowable quantity of cold medication.

Act 256 was modeled after an Oklahoma law, where authorities reported an 80 percent reduction in the number of meth labs they broke up. However, "one pot" cooking has caused an increase in meth busts in Oklahoma in the past two years.

In Arkansas, after passage of Act 256 the number of meth lab busts went down from more than 1,200 in 2004 to a low of 375 in 2007. However, in 2008 the number of busts went up to 418 and in 2009 up to 668. The total for 2009 may actually be greater because some cases are still not final, and thus have not been counted yet.

Law officers throughout the United States began noticing the rise of "one pot" labs in 2008. In Arkansas, as in many other states, the majority of meth labs discovered are now "one pot" labs.

After Act 256 took effect, police agencies began to see a shift in the source of meth. Instead of cooking it themselves, more addicts began buying a form called "ice" that was made in Mexico or in western states. It was relatively pure, often as much as 80 percent pure.

Arkansas meth users shifted back to cooking it themselves for a couple of reasons. The Mexican "ice" is much less pure these days, about 30 percent, whereas "one pot" cooking produces a very pure form of the drug. It also is called the "shake and bake" method. The meth is produced in a 20-ounce or two-liter soda bottle.

The prevalence of "one pot" labs is that more manufacturers are now cooking meth in moving vehicles and throwing the trash, and the evidence, out the window. Some police officers refer to them as "trash labs."

There is a greater risk of fire with the "one pot" method. According to news reports, there were 16 fires caused by meth labs in Tulsa last year, as well as at least 18 cases of people dying from an overdose of meth.

In 2005 Oregon was the first state to require a doctor's prescription to buy cold and allergy medications containing pseudoephedrine. Although consumers complained of the inconvenience, the law was a factor in the reduction of meth lab busts in Oregon to only 10 last year.

The Mississippi legislature recently passed a bill to require prescriptions for cold medications with pseudoephedrine. It will take effect July 1.

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