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Archive for Saturday, April 23, 2005

Meth law may create problems, officials say

Changes could boost drug pipeline

April 23, 2005

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— A new Kansas law making it harder for methamphetamine makers to get key ingredients for the drug could pose a whole new set of problems for law enforcement, investigators in Reno County said.

Last week Gov. Kathleen Sebelius signed the Matt Samuels Chemical Control Act, named in memory of Greenwood County Sheriff Matt Samuels. He was shot to death Jan. 19 near Virgil as he was serving a search warrant on a home where there was a suspected meth lab.

The law, which takes effect July 1, reduces the number of over-the-counter cold pills containing ephedrine and pseudoephedrine -- key ingredients in the manufacture of methamphetamine -- that a person can purchase at one time. It also requires customers to show photo identification and sign a register when purchasing the regulated medicines.

"This is a crime of addiction, and while we've made a key ingredient harder to get, we've done nothing for the addiction," said Rice County Sheriff Steve Bundy, a member of the Governor's Meth Task Force.

"There are two things I predict will happen: I think we'll see more pharmaceutical burglaries, and secondly, I think there will be more opportunities for organized criminals to fill the void created by the new law."

Most meth addicts don't pay for the drug, said Howard Shipley of the Hutchinson/Reno County Drug Enforcement Unit, but instead barter for their next fix.

"The vast majority of addicts don't work," Shipley said. "Most of them trade or supply the manufacturers with ingredients. Once that's dried up, where are the users going to come up with the money to pay for meth?"

Shipley said there would be a decline in small, clandestine meth labs, but as a result he sees the potential for an increase in the already bustling trade in commercial "Mexican meth."

"There's already a pipeline in place in the state of Kansas, and certainly in this area," he said. "I anticipate their business will pick up dramatically. The addicts are going to get their drugs somewhere."

Bundy said much of the state's meth already came from the southwestern United States, where commercial meth is carried to distributors within the state.

Despite their concerns about increased property crime and imported meth, Bundy said the new law gave officers a great advantage in their battle against the highly addictive drug.

"Kansas will realize an immediate effect from this law," he said. "We'll have safer state parks and rural areas because they can't find an alternative ingredient. I expect calls of anhydrous ammonia thefts and drop-off sites to nearly fall from the radar screen.

"But I still have a lot of skepticism because we're dealing with a crime of addiction."

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