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Law to curb dangerous meth labs starts Sunday

Release date: 1/13/2006

Raleigh: A new law championed by Attorney General Roy Cooper to help fight the spread of meth labs in North Carolina by limiting criminals’ access to the drug’s key ingredient will start Sunday.

“These secret drug labs that make meth threaten our families and our communities,” Cooper said. “The best way to keep criminals from making this dangerous drug is to cut off their access to its main ingredient, and that’s exactly what we’re doing with this new law.”

Cooper led the push during the 2005 legislative session to reduce meth labs in North Carolina by cutting criminals’ access to the drug’s key ingredient. The legislation adopted by the General Assembly, House Bill 248*, tracks a law passed in Oklahoma in 2004 that has resulted in a more than 80 percent drop in meth labs in that state.

Starting January 15, North Carolina’s new law will require that all single and multi-source tablets, caplets or pills containing pseudoephedrine and ephedrine be sold behind a pharmacy counter. Purchasers must be at least 18 years old and show a photo ID and sign a log to buy these products. The law also limits purchases of these products to no more than two packages at once and no more than three packages within 30 days without a prescription. Some national retailers such as Target and Wal-Mart have already moved pseudoephedrine products behind pharmacy counters, both in North Carolina and across the country.

As under the Oklahoma law, most liquid and gel cap forms of cold remedies will remain available for sale on store shelves because there have been no meth labs reported in North Carolina where gels and liquids were used. However, North Carolina law goes a step further by granting the Commission for Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services the authority to place restrictions on all liquids and gels. The Attorney General will work with the Commission and law enforcement to determine what restrictions are appropriate.

North Carolina’s meth problem developed over the past few years, and Cooper has been working to battle the spread of secret drug labs that produce the dangerous drug. In 1999, the first year that meth labs were reported in North Carolina, SBI agents discovered 9 labs. That number has skyrocketed, with agents busting 322 labs in 2004 and 328 labs in 2005.

More than 200 children were removed from meth labs in the state during the past two years. Children in these homes are threatened by toxic chemicals, explosions, abuse and neglect. A recent study funded by the U.S. DEA and conducted by the Denver-based National Jewish Medical and Research Center found that chemicals spread throughout the house during the meth cooking process, depositing methamphetamine on walls, carpets, tabletops and clothing. The study's author noted that children living in meth labs might as well be taking the drug directly.

“Meth is a highly addictive drug that’s being cooked up in homes, putting young children and unsuspecting neighbors at risk,” said Cooper. “Putting these products behind a pharmacy counter is a small price to pay to protect our communities from these potentially deadly drug labs.”