Lincoln County law enforcement officials told the Times-News Thursday they stand behind a possible new state law calling for more extreme measures against the statewide rise in methamphetamine use.
House Bill 29, which was approved by the North Carolina House of Representatives on Monday, and is currently being reviewed by the state Senate, outlines additional guidelines for keeping methamphetamine users from continuing their illegal drug habits, particularly the production of one-pot meth labs, according to a N.C. Attorney General’s Office press release.
Drug users typically use just a small dose of pseudoephedrine or other ingredients found in certain cold medications to concoct the specific-type of lab, usually inside a plastic soda bottle, the release said.
If passed, the new piece of legislation would make it a felony offense for a “convicted meth cook” to get his hands on such medications, state officials said.
Sheriff David Carpenter was elated to hear about the potential state law, calling it “another step in the right direction.”
The N.C. General Assembly passed a similar bill the end of 2011, which went into effect the beginning of last year and required all state pharmacies use a system named NPLEx (National Precursor Log Exchange) to track their pseudoephedrine sales, the release said.
The system, which interconnects all pharmacies in North Carolina and at least 23 other states, puts a limit on how many pseudoephedrine products a person can purchase each year. In 2012, NPLEx prevented nearly 55,000 purchases, state officials said.
Carpenter noted the environmental and explosive dangers attached to meth labs–dangers that could impact both the drug user and the entire community.
Lincolnton Police Chief Rodney Jordan had a similar view of the drug.
“Of all the classes of drugs we have to deal with, this is the most volatile and dangerous for the abuser, the community and officers,” he said.
House Bill 29 additionally seeks harsher penalties for offenders who make meth labs around three specific populations — the elderly, disabled and children. Hazardous materials released when the drug gets cooked can pollute clothing, toys and other items, the release said.
While last year, State Bureau of Investigation officials removed more than 100 children from such drug-infested homes, Lincoln County officers said they luckily encountered no children in any of the meth lab incidents they responded to in 2012.
“Legislation that would make stiffer sentences for offenders is great in my book,” Carpenter emphasized. “The thugs that make these types of drugs that continue to pollute society need to be put away for a very long time — very long time.”
SBI agents busted an overwhelming number of meth labs across the state last year, a number that proved much higher than in previous years. State officials said nearly three-quarters of the more than 450 labs were cooked using the one-pot method.
According crime statistics on the N.C. Attorney General’s Office website, Lincoln County has also witnessed a rise in meth labs, steadily increasing from one in 2010 to four in 2011 and six in 2012.
While Lincoln County Sheriff’s Lt. Jason Reid, head of the county’s narcotics division, has confidence that stricter penalties against meth users are “a plus” for community members and officers, he’s doubtful criminals will curb their antics for too long, or at all.
“These restrictions will cause the creative juices of meth makers to flow,” he said, “and a loop hole will eventually be found.”
For more information on House Bill 29, visit the N.C. General Assembly website at ncga.state.nc.us.