Blunt signs bill to curb meth labs

The law puts some products used to make meth behind counters.
Thursday, June 16, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:03 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

About a year after the Oklahoma pseudoephedrine law passed, Tulsa police are able to spend more time doing criminal investigations and less time rushing from one meth lab to another, Officer Scott Walton said.

“It has freed up officers and narcotics officers to go about and do the jobs they are assigned to do, instead of the burdensome task of cleaning up meth labs,” he said.

In 2003, before Oklahoma’s law to put pseudoephedrine pills behind pharmacy counters was passed, the state seized 1,233 meth labs. Last year, after the bill was signed, Oklahoma seized 812 labs.

In Missouri last year, 2,788 meth labs were seized, the most in the United States.

So on Wednesday Gov. Matt Blunt did the same thing as Oklahoma by signing a bill into law that requires certain pseudoephedrine products to be kept behind pharmaceutical counters.

This bill “will let us do what Oklahoma has, and stop this crisis,” said Missouri Rep. Bob Behnen, R-Kirksville, sponsor of the bill.

Behnen said the bill is modeled after an Oklahoma law, which was passed in April 2004 and was the first of its kind in the country.

“We called them after they implemented the bill and asked them if they would do anything differently,” Behnen said.

Missouri Highway Patrol crime analyst Connie Farrow said Boone County had 21 meth lab incidents in 2004. Maj. Tom Reddin of the Boone County Sheriff’s Department said meth labs are a major problem in Boone County but he is not sure how the new law will affect production.

“How positive or how significant remains to be seen,” he said. “But it is certainly a step in the right direction.”

Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control spokesman, Mark Woodward, said the law in Oklahoma had a tremendous affect on methamphetamine producers.

“We literally saw a 40 percent drop in the first month,” he said. “There has been about a 70 to 80 percent drop (in methamphetamine labs) statewide.”

In 2003, Oklahoma spent $4.9 million to dispose of hazardous materials from methamphetamine labs. Since the law was passed they have saved 80 percent in disposal fees, Woodward said.

When legislators wrote the law for Missouri, representatives from the Oklahoma bureau came to Missouri to help draft the new legislation.

Several states, including Kansas, Illinois, Arkansas and Iowa, were interested in the Oklahoma law.

After Oklahoma passed its law, meth producers would drive to neighboring states to buy their pseudoephedrine pills, said Lonnie Wright, director of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control.

Kansas, Arkansas, Iowa and Illinois have since enacted similar laws to regulate the sale of pseudoephedrine.

“We have watched meth labs go down steadily,” Wright said.

Oklahoma police seized 121 meth labs in January 2004, before the law was passed. In May 2005, more than a year after the law passed, they seized six, he said.

As a conservative estimate, Oklahoma has saved $350 million a year because of the law, Wright said.

“It didn’t cost the state a nickel,” he said. “We are putting hundreds of millions of dollars back in our pockets.”

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