Officials put a halt to more than 100 over the counter purchases
Since a new law took effect Jan. 1, pharmacies in Union County have blocked 104 purchases of pseudo-ephedrine, part of a push to cut down on meth labs across the state.
House Bill 12 was sponsored by District 68 Rep. Craig Horn, designed to stop meth cooking by limiting access to the ingredients needed to make it. In order to buy over the counter products like cough medicine that contain pseudo-ephedrine, customers must show a photo ID, sign a log and agree to purchase no more than two packages at once and no more than three within 30 days.
Across the state, 1,669 purchases of more than 2,000 packages have been blocked since the law took effect. State officials estimate that’s enough pseudo-ephedrine to make 3.8 kilos of meth. In Union County, the packages contained 235.33 grams.
“This is a staggering number,” Horn said. “I was not aware of the Union County number and now I am staggered again. This information confirms the pervasive nature of the meth problem in North Carolina.”
In 2011, the number of active meth labs grew both in Union County and across the state. In Union, there were 10 reported meth labs, up from 4 discovered in 2010. There were 344 reported meth labs across North Carolina in 2011, up from 235 in 2010.
Part of the reason for the increase comes from a new, simpler way to cook the product, called the ‘shake and bake’ method. Cooks can make meth in one sealed container, which is then flipped upside down to cause the reaction needed to turn the ingredients into meth. While this method generally produces meth in smaller quantities rather than one large batch, North Carolina drug enforcement officials say, it’s no less dangerous.
Using the new method, anything from a Coleman fuel can to a soda bottle can be used as a container, according to information from the Drug Enforcement Agency’s regional bureau. The chemical reaction causes a high amount of pressure to build inside after being shaken, making the mixture even more volatile than usual.
The new system allows pharmacies to log all purchases and then pass that data on to State Bureau of Investigation agents, who analyze the information to help identify potential suspects.
“We’re making it more difficult for criminals to get the ingredients they need to make meth, and easier for law enforcement to find them and shut down their dangerous labs,” North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said in a prepared statement.
In 2011, Union County finished in the state’s top ten areas for meth lab arrests. Burke finished in first, with 34 labs busted, Watauga second with 22 labs and Union finished tenth with 10 labs identified.
“I can only hope and pray that we are on a path that will reverse this terrible trend,” Horn said. As the chair of the House Select Committee on Methamphetamine Abuse, Horn said he and other lawmakers would closely monitor the effectiveness of HB12 and look at alternatives in case other measures were required to address the problem.