James HowellStaff Writerjhowell@civitasmedia.com
March 6, 2013
The N.C. House of Representatives passed a new bill that will add two years to the sentence of anyone convicted of cooking methamphetamine in the presence of children, elderly, and disabled adults.
“Unfortunately, our SBI agents do find children, seniors and disabled people living in homes where meth is being made,” said Noelle Talley, the Public Information Officer at the N.C. Department of Justice.
“House Bill 29 has passed the House and has been referred to the Senate Judiciary 1 Committee. We are hopeful that the bill will pass,” said Talley.
According to the release from Attorney General Roy Cooper’s office, 120 children were removed from homes where meth was being manufactured last year, up from 82 in 2011. So far in 2013, 14 children have been found living in and around meth labs.
More heart-wrenching is that a child’s clothing, toys and other belongings are usually destroyed because of the hazardous fumes given off during the cooking process.
Even though there were only two meth lab busts in Ashe County in 2012, neighboring Wilkes County had 58 meth lab busts, easily leading the state.
“We’re not having the same problems that they (Wilkes County) are,” said Lieutenant Grady Price, Ashe County’s narcotics investigator, two months ago.
Aside from adding a minimum of 24 months to the sentence of anyone cooking meth in the presence of vulnerable bystanders, House Bill 29 will also make it more difficult for prior convicts to obtain products containing pseudoephedrine. Commonly found in cough medicine, pseudoephedrine is a key ingredient in methamphetamine.
The battle to keep pseudoephedrine out of the hands of meth cookers has been fought since 2005, when N.C. lawmakers ordered the state’s pharmacies to place medicine containing the chemical behind the counter, making them more difficult to acquire.
Also, the N.C. General Assembly House Bill 12 was passed and ratified on June 16, 2011. The bill is titled “Stop Methamphetamine Labs” and increased regulation on 777 different products containing pseudoephedrine.
The bill “requires that, prior to the sale of pseudoephedrine products, retailers with Internet access must electronically submit required information into the National Precursor Log Exchange and must not complete the transaction if the system generates a stop alert. The submission is in addition to the existing regulation of the sale of pseudoephedrine products.”
The National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx)is a tracking system that helps block illegal sales of pseudoephedrine and lead law enforcement to meth labs.
NPLEx went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012, and is used by most North Carolina pharmacies, according to the release from Cooper’s office.
However, this has done little to prevent the manufacturing of methamphetamine. The state record of 460 meth lab busts in 2012 greatly exceeds the former record of 344 busts set in 2011.
“Better laws and technology can help, but we need more agents to respond to the rise in meth labs and investigate suspected meth manufacturers and traffickers,” said Cooper in the release.
As of Feb. 20, there have been 70 meth lab busts in North Carolina.
House Bill 29 was sponsored by Reps. Craig Horn, John Faircloth, Joe Tolson, and Sarah Stevens.