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February 13, 2013

GAO: Meth labs rebound in some regions

#Meth labs have surged in the #South and #Midwest, due in part to new illicit production techniques, the Government Accountability Office found in a new report.

While reported lab "incidents" continue to fall in the West, the 70-page new report noted that "the South and Midwest regions have experienced significant increases overall in the number of incidents since 2007." The report, moreover, notes how the illegal methamphetamine business has risen, fallen, and risen again as drug gangs confront new legal restrictions and then adapt and overcome.

To wit: States reported over 24,000 meth lab incidents in 2004, a record. By 2007, the number fell to 7,000. Law enforcement officials attributed the dramatic decline to new state and federal restrictions on the purchase of precursor drugs used in the illicit labs.

By 2010, though, the number of lab incidents had bounced back up to 15,000. Officials cite two primary reasons. A production method popularly called the One Pot method simplified the entire meth production process down to a single two-liter plastic bottle.  The second reason is smurfing, a term for a gang of individuals  buying the maximum per-person allowed amount of the pseudoephedrine precursor chemicals.

The informative report looks closely at Oregon and Mississippi, two states that have put in place a prescription requirement for pseudoephedrine. Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who released the report as chair of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, declared that "prescription-only laws attack the problem at its source by preventing meth manufacturers from obtaining the basic chemicals to produce it."

As it happens, Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif., is introducing legislation on Thursday to aid communities hurt by the various consequences of meth production and addiction.

The report adds a bit more nuance, noting:

"Although the prescription-only approach appears to have contributed to a reduction in the number of meth labs in the states that have adopted it, the experience of these states to date has shown that the prescription-only approach does not preclude individuals from traveling to neighboring states to purchase PSE products for use in meth labs."





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"Suits & Sentences" is a legal affairs blog written by Michael Doyle, a reporter for McClatchy's Washington Bureau. He was a Knight Journalism Fellow at Yale Law School, where he earned a Master of Studies in Law; he also earned a Masters in Government from The Johns Hopkins University with a thesis on the Freedom of Information Act. He teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs.

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