TROOPER NIK GREEN, ROCKY EALES AND MATTHEW
PSEUDOEPHEDRINE AND METH LABS
The “meth lab” has become one of the most dangerous and difficult
law enforcement challenges in Oklahoma. An overview of information and
studies dealing with meth labs shows that methamphetamine is a potent
form of the stimulant amphetamine and is a cheap and easily produced substance
more addictive than crack cocaine. It is sometimes called “crank”
or “crystal meth”. The recipe is easy to follow with ingredients
such as drain cleaner, cold medicines, batteries and even coffee filters
that can be easily purchased over the counter or stolen from the shelves
of stores. The ingredients are easily hidden and can fit in a suitcase
or in the trunk of a car. While prescription uses of amphetamines are
typically 2.5 to 15 milligrams per day, abusers on a speed binge often
consume up to 1,000 milligrams every three hours. An intense wave of physical
and psychological exhilaration, or “rush”, takes place. In
spite of the extreme damage of long-term use, the rush keeps the users
doing anything and everything they can to get the drug. It is highly addictive,
and users lose interest in any other aspect of their lives except getting
their next hit. Withdrawal is extremely severe and may last months.
There are other public safety problems related to
the illegal manufacturing of methamphetamines. Meth labs are dangerous
to children and other people in the immediate vicinity of the lab. The
ingredients for meth are toxic and extremely flammable when mixed, and
the slightest spark can cause the lab to explode. The toxic byproducts
of a meth lab pose another danger to the environment, and the cleanup
is an expensive undertaking. In addition, the number of inmates incarcerated
for drug-related offenses in Oklahoma has skyrocketed, adding another
huge cost to the meth lab scene.
Meth lab raids and news reports concerning drug use
are now a part of everyday life in Oklahoma. In the late 1980’s,
Oklahoma ranked 4th nationally for the number of labs seized each year.
The number fell drastically due to state and federal laws regulating the
chemicals needed for the recipe. But, in the 90s, a new recipe using the
drug ephedrine began a new era for meth labs. In the ensuing years, Oklahoma
once again found itself at the top of national statistics relating to
methamphetamine manufacturing. At the heart of the nearly 1200% increase
in meth lab seizures in Oklahoma in the past 10 years has been the ingredient,
pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient in such medicines as Claritin-D and
Sudafed. It is now the ingredient of choice for methamphetamine production.
Although Oklahoma enacted precursor laws to control many of the chemicals
used for manufacturing meth, over-the-counter products were still driving
the meth lab scene in Oklahoma.
Troopers Nik Green, Rocky Eales and Matthew Evans
have made the methamphetamine epidemic in Oklahoma all the more personal.
All three were violently killed in drug-related law enforcement actions
recently, and their deaths became the catalyst for more determined efforts
to get control of the illegal manufacturing of methamphetamine. Law enforcement
agencies at all levels brought the need to control access to pseudoephedrine
to the legislative level. The result of their efforts is HB 2176 which
creates the Trooper Nik Green, Rocky Eales and Matthew Evans Act.
The provisions of HB 2176 are designed to have a major impact on the ability
to obtain pseudoephedrine in quantities for manufacturing methamphetamine
or to possess substances in such quantities that are used in the manufacture
of controlled dangerous substances. The bill also addresses the bonding
and release of defendants arrested for meth-related crimes. The provisions:
1. Create a presumption that bond should be denied to any person arrested
for a violation of certain laws relating to manufacturing or attempting
to manufacture a controlled dangerous substance or possessing any of the
substances listed in law with the intent to manufacture a controlled dangerous
substance. Bond can also be denied if a person is dependent upon a controlled
dangerous substance or has a pattern of regular illegal use of a controlled
dangerous substance and the violation the person was arrested for was
committed or attempted in order to maintain or facilitate the dependence
or pattern of illegal use.
2. Make pseudoephedrine a Schedule V substance and provide that pseudoephedrine
tablets shall be available only at a licensed pharmacy.
3. Require a person acquiring pseudoephedrine to show a photo ID and sign
a written log or receipt relating to the sale.
4. Restrict the amount of pseudoehpedrine a person can acquire to 9 grams
within a 30-day period, except upon a valid prescription.
5. Exempt liquid and gel products containing pseudoephedrine from the
Schedule since they are not used in the manufacture of methamphetamine.
6. Allow for exemptions of certain products that are not used or cannot
be used to produce methamphetamine.
7. Reduce the amount of certain substances from 24 grams to 9 grams that
will constitute a presumption of intent to use the product as a precursor
to methamphetamine or another controlled dangerous substance.
8. Add phosphorus to the list of substances that are unlawful to possess
with the intent to manufacture a controlled dangerous substance.
Summary of Actions
As a result of HB 2176, businesses other than pharmacies were required
to stop selling pseudoehpedrine tablets on April 6, 2004. They were given
a grace period of 30 days to arrange a buy-back with their distributors
or to contact law enforcement to take possession of their inventories.
That grace period ended May 6, 2004. Pharmacies had until June 6, 2004,
to place pseudoephedrine tablets behind the counter or in a secured case
and to implement an in-store logging system for pseudoephedrine tablet
transactions. This grace period has also expired, and all provisions of
the bill are now enforceable.
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous
Drugs Control has efforts underway to put in place a centralized computer
database that will ultimately track tablet pseudoephedrine sales in order
to control the limit of 9 grams in a 30-day period for an individual without
With the enactment of HB 2176, law enforcement in
Oklahoma hopes to see major reductions in meth labs and the production
of methamphetamine. Surrounding states do not have stringent laws relating
to the sale of pseudoephedrine, however, and drug users may be able to
obtain the tablets with ease outside state lines. Law enforcement in Oklahoma
hopes that other states will enact similar provisions. One of Oklahoma’s
U.S. Representatives has proposed a federal law similar to HB 2176 in
order to control the sale of pseudoehpedrine and ephedrine nationally.
A timely note: The Tulsa World on June 8, 2004, quoting
law enforcement officials, cited some evidence of a slowdown in the production
of methamphetamine in the state, even given the short period of time since
the law went into effect. If successful, Oklahoma’s law could become
a model for others to follow.
The Oklahoma State Senate, Senate Staff
Senator Cal Hobson, President Pro Tempore