State officials believe a new law will help slow the production of methamphetamine, but local drug fighters believe it may be a while before it has any effect.
Mark Woodward, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control, said Oklahoma joined a multistate pseudoephedrine registry Jan. 1 that will help close a loophole that meth cooks have been using.
“As it was, a meth cook could purchase their legal limit of pseudoephedrine in one state, then drive to another and buy more, skirting the law meant to keep them from buying an excessive amount,” Woodward said.
Oklahoma and six other states joined the 17 states already using the NPLEX (National Precursor Log Exchange) system, Woodward said.
Customers and pharmacies won’t notice a difference, he said. When a customer buys a drug containing pseudoephedrine, the pharmacist will just be running the name through a larger database instead of the old system, which checked to see whether the customer had reached the limit in Oklahoma only.
“The idea is to close that loophole for meth cooks who hit their limits and then travel to another state,” Woodward said.
But Command Sgt. Maj. John Pearson of the Muskogee Police Department’s Special Investigations Unit said he’s not sure whether the new system will make a dent in the city’s rising meth problem.
“It’s something we’ll have to give some time and get used to it,” he said. “Personally, I thought the old system was faster and easier to use.”
With the old system, he said, an officer could be using a cell phone to check the state’s database while watching pseudoephedrine purchases in real time.
“The new system is slower, to me,” Pearson said. “It might be one of those things where there are some growing pains and there’s a learning curve. After a few months, we’ll be able to check and see where the numbers are and see if there’s been a difference.”
What’s clear is that meth use continues to be a problem in Muskogee.
In 2009, city law enforcers cleaned up 32 meth labs. In 2010, that number rose to 110. In 2011, police recovered 173 labs.
“Part of it is the drug is so popular here,” Pearson said. “And part of it is we’re finding more large dump sites.”
Pearson said 303 labs were recovered in 2012. At least 75 of those were found in early December at a Muskogee house where Brandon Del Jackson, 31, and Sylvia Starr, 22, were arrested.
Jackson and Starr will be in court today for a preliminary hearing.
“The Midwest and the West Coast see a lot of the one-pot or shake-and-bake style meth labs,” Woodward said. “So law enforcement has to find a way to stay ahead of the meth cooks.”
Reach Dylan Goforth at (918) 684-2903 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Legal amounts of pseudoephedrine
Residents can legally purchase a certain amount of pseudoephedrine in Oklahoma, according to Mark Woodward of the state narcotics bureau. The restriction went into effect last summer, he said. However, the restriction was retroactive, so some people found they had already reached their yearly limit when the law took effect.
3.6 grams Within 72 hours
7.2 grams Each month
60 grams Each year