NEW ID LAW TARGETS ILLEGAL DRUG LABS
Similar Legislation Worked In 1 state
FRANKFORT - Kentucky law enforcement officials hope new legislation requiring people to show picture IDs and sign their names when buying medication containing pseudoephedrine will become a useful instrument in their arsenal against methamphetamine.
"Without controlling pseudoephedrine, it's going to be really hard to get our arms around the meth problem," said David James, head of the Kentucky Bureau of Investigation - an arm of the attorney general's office.
"Now that we have some controls on the pseudoephedrine, it will help law enforcement across the state better protect the citizens."
The law went into effect Monday. It requires that medication containing pseudoephedrine - a key ingredient in meth - be kept behind counters and that only pharmacists or technicians sell them. Private purchases are capped at no more than 9 grams, which is about 300 tablets, per month. It does not apply to the liquid and gel forms of the drug.
The law also makes it a felony for someone to make meth with a child nearby.
And anyone caught with at least two ingredients or pieces of meth-making equipment could be convicted of meth manufacturing.
The legislation was one of 158 new laws - from the official demise of public campaign financing to a designated state beverage - that the 2005 Kentucky General Assembly created. The bulk of them took effect Monday.
While authorities are looking at the new meth law as a way to get the upper-hand on drug manufacturers, some people are bracing for what they consider an unnecessary intrusion into their personal privacy.
Being able to track who is buying large quantities of drugs containing pseudoephedrine could prove to be a valuable law enforcement tool, James said. It will allow police and other investigators to monitor who is buying the drug and where, he said.
But Beth Wilson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Kentucky, said there are not "appropriate checks and balances" to guard against abuse of the new system. Better safeguards are needed to ensure the information is viewed only for legitimate law enforcement reasons, Wilson said.
"We have never been a country that supported a fishing expedition by law enforcement, and that's exactly what this does," Wilson said.
Other states that have implemented similar laws, such as Oklahoma, have witnessed up to a 40 percent reduction in the presence of meth labs, Kentucky State Police Commissioner Mark Miller said. That kind of benefit outweighs any personal privacy issues, Miller said.
"Security always requires some inconvenience and it requires some concessions in terms of ultimate privacy," Miller said.
"But I don't see this as being an abridgment of their privacy at all."