House Committee Passes Stronger, More Comprehensive Meth Bill
A House judiciary committee approved legislation on Tuesday that seeks to stop the increase in methamphetamine production and use in North Carolina. In recent years, meth has become one of the biggest crime problems in North Carolina and is having a dramatic impact on many communities and families. The House bill has been described as one of the nation's strictest and most comprehensive laws governing the sale of cold medicines used in the making of meth and is much stronger and more comprehensive than a bill passed by the Senate.
Medicines such as Sudafed would be kept behind the counter in pharmacies and grocery stores in part to curb the production of meth in clandestine labs in North Carolina. Meth-makers "cook" the stimulant out of the tablets. The House measure adds more teeth to a bill passed by the state Senate, including video surveillance of sales areas for cold medicines containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, civil penalties for retail violators, and more restrictions on where the products are kept at stores. The House bill would also regulate children's cold syrup, gel, and liquid forms of the medicines, which were not addressed in the Senate bill. Individuals buying the medication would be required to sign a logbook with their name and address.
As in the Senate bill, consumers would have to show photo identification at the pharmacy counter, where most of the medicines would be stored. But stores that don't have a pharmacy could still sell them at a single designated register where the packages would be kept. This change was made in response to the concerns expressed by many law-abiding consumers in rural areas who worried that they would have to travel 10 to 20 miles to a pharmacy instead of being able to purchase cold medicine at a local grocery store.
North Carolina's meth problem has increased over the past few years, and legislators, the governor, and Attorney General Roy Cooper have worked to battle the spread of secret drug labs that produce the dangerous drug. In 1999, the first year that meth labs were reported in North Carolina, SBI agents discovered 9 labs. That number has skyrocketed, with agents shutting down 322 labs in 2004 and more than 135 so far this year. In 2004, 124 children were found living in meth labs in the state. Children in these homes are threatened by toxic chemicals, fire, and explosions, and are often neglected or abused. Thus far in 2005, more than 50 children have been removed from homes where meth was being made.