New laws get tough on methamphetamine

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

Last week, the Missouri Legislature signed some of the nation's toughest anti-methamphetamine measures in the country.

It came not a minute too soon.

More than any other drug, the sale and use of methamphetamine have ravaged our state.

Missouri has led the country for the past two years in the number of clandestine labs shut down by police, recording 2,725 raids and seizures last year.

Meth is a potent stimulant that can be injected, smoked or taken as a pill. In recent years, use of the drug has exploded across the Midwest, especially in the Show Me State with its central location, plentiful rural areas and its many highways.

Tough laws are going to be needed to help curb the biggest drug explosion since crack cocaine 15 years ago. These new laws should help in that fight.

The first measure limits sales of over-the-counter drugs containing ephedrine, pseudoephedrine or phenylpropanolamine as the sole active ingredient -- such as Sudafed -- to two packages per purchase or no more than 6 grams.

The current limit is three packages. Such products, intended to treat colds and allergies, are the main ingredient in the illicit street drug.

Stores will also have to keep such products behind the checkout counter or within 10 feet of it and in clear view of a clerk. That provision is intended to thwart shoplifting.

The second measure will make it a class A felony to manufacture controlled substances in a residence occupied by a child or within 2,000 feet of a school. The unlawful release of anhydrous ammonia, a fertilizer that is another key high-grade meth ingredient, into the atmosphere will be a class B felony. If such a release causes a death, it will be class A felony.

The bill also established the Missouri Sheriff's Methamphetamine Relief Task Force consisting of five county sheriffs appointed by the governor. The group will administer grants for anti-meth initiatives.

Some drug companies protested the laws, saying that it would create a hardship on chronic allergy sufferers. A few convenience store owners in the state said they didn't like the government dictating how they used prime retail space.

But the problems of methamphetamine should override those concerns.

Targeting the user and maker has proved difficult, especially considering that most of these so-called labs are really nothing more than the trunk of someone's car or a bathroom. In other words, they are highly mobile. Aiming such laws at cutting the meth-maker off from the ingredients makes a good deal of sense.

These laws are needed. They will be a valuable tool in fighting one of the state's biggest and most devastating problems.

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