Columbia pharmacy tip leads to meth arrest

Thursday, November 30, 2006

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- A tip from a Columbia pharmacy that led to the arrest of two people on methamphetamine-related charges proves that a law regulating ingredients for the drug is working, law enforcement officials said.

Betty L. Linhart, 39, and James R. Price, 55, were arrested in New Franklin on Nov. 13 and charged with possessing the ingredients with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine, as well as possession of methamphetamine.

Howard County Prosecuting Attorney Mason Gebhardt said a law passed more than a year ago in Missouri restricting how much medication containing pseudoephedrine people can buy has helped reduce meth labs in his county.

The law requires those buying pills containing pseudoephedrine, such as Sudafed and Dimetapp, to provide a photo identification and sign a logbook.

"The last meth lab case I handled was probably eight months ago. Before, I'd see them once a month, if not more," Gebhardt said.

Gebhardt said meth possession still occurs in the county, "but it's having to be shipped in. There's not as much homegrown meth."

The new law makes it more difficult for people wanting to make methamphetamine and the pharmacy logbooks help investigators figure out who's "dabbling in it," Gebhardt said.

Law enforcement officials cross-reference pharmacy logbooks to identify residents who might be buying illegal amounts of pseudoephedrine at different stores, said Cpl. Mike Jett of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

But Jett, who is a member of the MUSTANG Drug Task Force, said meth arrests stemming from pharmacy tips still are rare.

Law enforcement officials encourage pharmacists to report anything that seems suspicious.

"Obviously, there are certain limits. Some people have a legitimate need for pseudoephedrine," Jett said. "But anything above and beyond that should at least raise some concerns or at least become noteworthy."

Kilgore's Pharmacy calls Columbia police when "we feel like somebody is up to no good," owner Bob Kilgore said. "It really is a judgment call."

To keep prospective manufacturers from getting ingredients at different pharmacies, Kilgore started a Web site, http://www.methtrack.com, to track sales.

That type of tracking, along with information pharmacies are already collecting, help make the restrictions effective, said Jefferson City police Lt. Robert Bucklew, who's also involved in the MUSTANG Drug Task Force.

"You cut off the supply. That's really what's working most," he said. "That and the intelligence gathering."


Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune, http://www.columbiatribune.com

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