Lawmakers crack down on methamphetamine

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    By Ryan Christopher Grange

    Increased law enforcement and control of chemical suppliers are shutting down Utah County”s methamphetamine labs one lab at a time.

    Law enforcement officials met with local retailers Tuesday to coordinate cooperation in the elimination of meth labs.

    Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said law enforcement needs the help of local retailers because most meth producers control small operations.

    “Making sure you don”t sell the precursors is the way retailers can help prevent substance abuse,” said B. J. VanRoosendaal of the Utah Division of Substances.

    In 2001, there were nine meth labs in Utah County, compared to 47 labs in 1998. Although the quantity of labs has decreased, the demand is still high, Shurtleff said.

    Methamphetamines are the most commonly used drug in Utah, according to VanRoosendaal. Methamphetamines are known more by the street terms “speed” or “crank.”

    Meth can be smoked, injected, snorted or eaten.

    “Any way you can get it in your system works,” DEA agent and meth specialist Jeff Payne said.

    Other common but less powerful drugs are derived from methamphetamines, including ecstasy, VanRoosendaal said.

    Colleen Coebergh, an attorney who has prosecuted hundreds of meth cases, taught representatives from convenience and grocery stores how to spot someone who is producing methamphetamines.

    “Just like a cake, you need ingredients for meth,” Coebergh said.

    Some ingredients include Ephedrine and Pseudophedrine, found in many cold medicines, such as Sudafed and Actifed. Other products used are coffee filters, small plastic bags and matchbooks.

    “If a guy walks in and buys 12 boxes of Sudafed you should be suspicious,” Payne said.

    Besides watching certain products, retailers were told to watch consumers” behavior.

    “With meth addicts, you look in their eyes, and nobody”s home,” Van Roosendaal said.

    Warning signs include paranoiac behavior, inability to pronounce chemical names, paying in cash and frequently visiting the store to buy unusual products.

    Women of childbearing age tend to use meth more than men. Meth is cheap, gives them energy and acts as an eating suppressant, said VanRoosendaal.

    Failing to report possible meth producers is a crime, Coebergh said. Penalties include stiff fines and 10-15 years in jail.

    “If there is reasonable cause to believe someone is producing meth, and you sell those ingredients to them anyway, we will prosecute you,” she said.

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