Meth ingredients moved

Published 5:18 am Monday, May 30, 2005

By Staff
From Staff Reports
Pharmacies in Brewton are already enforcing a law that Gov. Bob Riley signed a law Tuesday making it more difficult to obtain the chief ingredient used to manufacture methamphetamine, which the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency reports is the biggest drug threat facing Alabama.
"We have an opportunity with this bill to reduce the number of meth labs in Alabama and the number of Alabamians addicted to this devastating drug," Riley said during a news conference in his State Capitol office. "Alabama is in the midst of a man-made epidemic, one that is ripping apart our communities and small towns, destroying lives and is dreadfully easy to spread. The spread of this epidemic won't be stemmed until the ingredients to make it become hard to get."
The new law requires all non-prescription cold tablets, which have ephedrine or pseudoephedrine as the sole active ingredient, to be put behind the counter or in locked display cabinets at pharmacies. Tablets where ephedrine or pseudoephedrine is one of several active ingredients will either have to be placed behind the counter, in a locked case, or kept under video surveillance. Purchases would also be limited to two packages or six grams at a time.
Gel and liquid forms of pseudoephedrine will still be available anywhere over-the-counter medicines are sold because they cannot be used to make meth. Purchasers will have to sign for the purchase and show photo identification or two other forms of identification.
Pharmacies like Wal-Mart in Brewton and Fred's Discount Pharmacy in East Brewton have already placed some of the medicine containing the active ingredients behind the counter.
At Fred's Discount Pharmacy, Ned Sibert, pharmacy manager, said the store put the medicine behind the counter about six months ago. He added that some of the medicine could be found behind the cashier's desk at the front of the store, too.
Sibert also said that their cash registers are programmed not to allow sales that are not in compliance with the law. While Sibert thinks it's going to take "quite a bit of manpower" to swiftly enact the law, he applauds lawmakers for making the effort.
The law is believed to not only cut down on theft, but law enforcement officials and lawmakers believe this restriction on the sale of tablet pseudoephedrine will reduce the manufacture of meth in the state.
Earlier this year, when the bill was proposed, agent Mike Lambert with the 21st Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force, said being able to refer to the list of people purchasing these products will help the task force fight the problem.
While criminals may go underground and develop the ingredient through another source, or make it themselves Lambert said, it would deter many from going store-to-store and producing it expeditiously.
Douglas Alton Crook from Brewton was arrested in December when agents recovered an operating crystal meth lab that was later determined by the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences in Mobile for more than 180 grams of crystal meth.
Agents said this week that Crook plead guilty in February to unlawful manufacturing of a controlled substance in the first degree and crystal meth, which is a Class A felony.
Under the provisions of the split sentence act, Crook was sentenced for 15 years to the Department of Corrections. However, that sentence was suspended and he must first serve three years in the State Penitentiary in Atmore before being released, and he will be placed on five years supervised probation.
Under the split sentence act, a defendant must serve the complete jail time and cannot be considered for good time or early release.

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