Officials worry meth production on rise

Tuesday, January 20, 2009 | 12:17 p.m. CST; updated 12:34 p.m. CST, Tuesday, January 20, 2009

SIKESTON — Methamphetamine production is on the rise again in southeast Missouri, and narcotics officers say they're fighting back by trying to keep meth precursors out of the hands of producers.

"Pseudoephedrine is a 'must-have' ingredient if you want to make methamphetamine; there is no substitute for it," said Kevin Glaser, supervisor of the SEMO Drug Task Force. "What we've seen over the last year is a gradual increase in people buying cold medicine precursors. Naturally, at the same time we've also seen an increase in our lab seizures."

Now, the task force is making a push to address those increases.

"Basically, we're targeting meth cooks," Glaser said.

In August, Missouri House Bill 441 went into effect, requiring that only pharmacies can sell compounds containing pseudoephedrine and ephedrine, and requiring them to be kept behind the counter. The law helped reduce the number of meth labs for a while — Glaser estimated lab seizures declined by 40 percent to 45 percent. But now, Glaser said the numbers are creeping back up again.

"Those who are determined to cook meth are finding ways to get around the obstacles put into place by HB-441," Glaser said. "These people are not going to stop what they're doing."

Last week, officials in Sikeston arrested 17 people on meth-related charges. Authorities targeted people buying precursors from retail stores.

One method of circumventing the restrictions is "pill smurfing," or buying pills at multiple pharmacies and stores. Another is to have friends purchase pseudoephedrine.

Law enforcement agencies in southeast Missouri and the Missouri Narcotics Officers Association want lawmakers to make pseudoephedrine a Schedule 3 controlled substance, which would require a prescription to purchase it.

"Meth is still a problem — it's not going away," Glaser said.

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Ayn Rand January 20, 2009 | 1:25 p.m.

Another problem is that some pseudoephedrine doesn't wind up being made into meth. Instead, kids take a dozen or more as is out of the box to get high. That's even tougher to combat.

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