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Anti-meth law has reduced number of U.S. labs, report finds

By buseman, Jul 8, 2010 | |
  1. buseman
    Illegal meth labs have become scarcer and their federally funded cleanups cheaper, a new report shows.

    Since 2006, when Congress passed an anti-methamphetamine measure, the number of meth lab cleanups nationwide has decreased significantly, auditors found.

    Investigators attribute the decline to the law that made it harder to buy key chemicals used in illicit drug production.

    DEA officials attribute the decrease in cleanups ... to the passage of the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005, which imposed significant restrictions on the sale of pseudoephedrine to methamphetamine manufacturers, inspector general auditors noted.

    The report, however, doesn't indicate whether meth use has declined in the U.S.

    In recent years, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime noted late last month, meth production was displaced over the border to Mexico.

    The amount of methamphetamine seized near the U.S.-Mexico border nearly doubled from 2007 to 2009, the annual U.N. drug report stated.

    The federal Drug Enforcement Administration funded the cleanup of a record 11,790 methamphetamine labs in fiscal 2005.

    By fiscal 2008, the most recent year for which figures are available, the DEA funded the cleanup of 3,866 labs.

    Contract improvements and other revisions also cut the average cost per lab cleanup from $3,600 in fiscal 2007 to $2,200 in fiscal 2009, auditors with the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General noted approvingly.

    California - which in 1999 was ruefully dubbed a source country for its ample meth production, particularly in the remote rural stretches of the Central Valley - had only 13 meth labs cleaned up by the DEA in fiscal 2008, the new audit notes.

    Though state authorities cleaned up additional labs not counted by the DEA, law enforcement officers generally like the overall trend.

    The anti-meth law, signed by President George W. Bush in March 2006, limits the amount of pseudoephedrine that can be sold, moves products containing it behind the pharmacy counter and imposes record-keeping requirements.

    Domestic drug gangs now resort to "smurfing," which involves frequently purchasing medicines in quantities small enough to avoid normal restrictions.

    They'll go into a homeless shelter and get a dozen people, and then bring them to every pharmacy in the county to buy cold medicine blister packs, Bill Ruzzamenti, director of the Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, said Tuesday.

    The agency helps coordinate state, local and federal anti-drug efforts in the region.

    The illicit labs, in turn, produce toxic waste along with the methamphetamine. These toxic byproducts can burn, explode and corrode; they can sicken law enforcement officers cleaning up the labs and seep into groundwater.

    In fiscal 2008, the DEA spent about $16.6 million on drug lab cleanups. This paid for cleaning up 190 labs in Florida, 175 labs in Texas, 161 labs in North Carolina and 50 labs in Missouri, among others.

    States also spend additional money for their own cleanups.

    Missouri is one of several states that uses state funds for most of its drug laboratory cleanups, and only requests the DEA's assistance for large cleanups, auditors noted.

    The auditors cautioned that problems still hinder the DEA lab cleanup program. In some cases, private contractors didn't provide the paperwork proving the dangerous lab chemicals were properly disposed of.

    An unnamed hazardous waste disposal company responsible for lab cleanups in Western states also had to be dropped several years ago after serious disclosures about the company's president were revealed during a routine background investigation, auditors noted.

    In their formal response, DEA officials largely agreed with the auditors' recommendations and pointed to improvements that have already been made.

    DEA-funded cleanup of drug labs by year

    Fiscal year ......... DEA lab cleanups

    2008 ......... 3,866

    2007 ......... 3,405

    2006 ......... 4,744

    2005 ......... 11,790

    2004 ......... 9,825

    2003 ......... 8,631

    2002 ......... 7,243

    2001 ......... 6,390

    2000 ......... 4,505

    1999 ......... 3,846

    Source: Justice Department Office of Inspector General

    DEA-funded clandestine drug lab cleanups in fiscal 2008 by state

    State ........ No. of labs

    Alabama ........ 443

    Alaska ........ 14

    Arizona ........ 29

    Arkansas ........ 235

    California ........ 13

    Colorado ........ 66

    Connecticut ........ 0

    Delaware ........ 0

    Florida ........ 190

    Georgia ........ 167

    Hawaii ........ 1

    Idaho ........ 18

    Illinois ........ 121

    Indiana ........ 50

    Iowa ........ 61

    Kansas ........ 7

    Kentucky ........ 66

    Louisiana ........ 36

    Maine ........ 0

    Maryland ........ 2

    Massachusetts ........ 2

    Michigan ........ 300

    Minnesota ........ 44

    Mississippi ........ 221

    Missouri ........ 50

    Montana ........ 9

    Nebraska ........ 12

    Nevada ........ 16

    New Hampshire ........ 0

    New Jersey ........ 1

    New Mexico ........ 64

    New York ........ 12

    North Carolina ........ 161

    North Dakota ........ 2

    Ohio ........ 186

    Oklahoma ........ 86

    Oregon ........ 36

    Pennsylvania ........ 17

    South Carolina ........ 105

    South Dakota ........ 5

    Tennessee ........ 684

    Texas ........ 175

    Utah ........ 12

    Vermont ........ 1

    Virginia ........ 21

    Washington ........ 2

    West Virginia ........ 108

    Wisconsin ........ 9

    Wyoming ........ 2

    (Note: The number shown does not include cleanup funded through state and local agencies.)

    Source: Drug Enforcement Administration

    BY MICHAEL DOYLE
    07/06/10
    http://www.thenewstribune.com/2010/07/06/1254316/anti-meth-law-has-reduced-number.html

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