Sen. Koster proposes bill to crack down on meth

Thursday, January 31, 2008 | 10:20 p.m. CST; updated 8:23 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — Sen. Chris Koster, a candidate for attorney general, proposed a bill Thursday to crack down on methamphetamine use and production from several angles.

“We need an approach that addresses methamphetamines on a criminal justice front, on the educational front and on the treatment front,” Koster said at a press conference Thursday.

The bill that was filed Thursday morning would require mandatory substance abuse treatment for anyone convicted of possession of methamphetamines as well as a potential child endangerment charge if a user shares their home with children.

“You’ll never have to worry about lipstick on your teeth again,” read a poster next to Sen. Koster that was cropped to show only a young girl’s mouth, her lips chapped and blistered with blood, her teeth crooked and rotting. All this was the result of persistent methamphetamine use.

This poster would be only a small part of the bill’s effort in a methamphetamines education project, which aims to raise awareness of the drugs’ dangers and hinder their use.

Koster said he hopes to stop the drugs’ use by monitoring sales of pseudoephedrine, the active ingredient in many sinus and cold medications. If enacted, this would require people to provide identification in addition to their name, address and date of birth. Pharmacists or dispensers of the drug would be required to record this information along with the quantity of the drug dispensed and the source of payment for the drug, in addition to other information.

Currently pharmacists must keep products containing pseudoephedrine behind the counter. There is a limit on how much people can purchase, and they must show a photo ID. All this is recorded in a paper log.

One pharmacist said the additional requirements Koster’s bill would require would not be difficult to implement because they are the same as existing requirements for prescription drugs. Pharmacists would be required to follow the same procedures for drugs containing pseudoephedrine as for filling a standard prescription, said Bill Morrissey, pharmacist and co-owner of Kilgore’s Medical Pharmacy in Columbia.

Koster’s bill would also enact harsher penalties for those who deal methamphetamines, as well as provide more funds to law enforcement to attract and maintain staff.

Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Tim Hull said methamphetamines are harder to detect in rural areas. He also said that anhydrous ammonia, used as a fertilizer and iodine crystals used in handling farm animals, are also used in making methamphetamines.

“For the first time, this legislation proposes mandatory minimum sentencing in the area of methamphetamines production,” Hull said.

Although there has been legislation to try and control the use of methamphetamines, it is a continuing struggle to get it off the streets. “Criminals don’t have anything to do but sit around and figure out how to get around laws,” Hull said. “You’ve got a very addictive drug that’s cheaper than a lot of the other drugs. ... The high lasts a lot longer.”

Morrissey said that many methamphetamine producers will visit several stores in one day, knowing they can only get two bottles of Sudafed at each store.

“They go to Kilgore’s, then to Walgreens, then to D and H (pharmacy). They have their cohorts do the same,” Morrissey said.

Morrissey said pharmacies will call each other to give warning of suspicious characters but said computerized central record keeping would make it much easier to avoid selling pseudoephedrine to the frequent buyers.

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