New system nips methPublished 9:50pm Thursday, March 1, 2012
NILES — More than $2.1 million worth of methamphetamine has been kept off of Michigan streets since the implementation of a new system designed to combat meth production late last year.
Sen. John Proos and local law enforcement officials were at Martin’s Super Market pharmacy in Niles Friday discussing the new system, called the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx).
NPLEx is a real-time electronic logging system used only by law enforcement to track sales of over-the-counter cold and allergy medications containing precursors to methamphetamine.
If a person tries to purchase more than the federal allowable limit of pseudoephedrine or ephedrine in a certain time period the sale is blocked. The data is sent immediately to local law enforcement.
“Is this going to stop methamphetamine? No,” said Proos. “Does it give us a chance to stop it at the point of purchase so we can at least get a better handle on the problems that are occurring? Yes, and I feel very good about that now.”
John Burgess, manager of the Martin’s Super Market pharmacy in Niles, is already seeing changes.
Burgess said he used to get a lot of customers from out of state trying to purchase large amounts of medicine containing precursors to meth. It got so bad, Burgess stopped selling the products to out-of-state customers.
“Since it (the new system) was established we’ve dropped to virtually no out of state potential customers that have come in,” Burgess said.
Pharmacies in Berrien County have blocked 117 purchases since November 2011 using the system. Cass County pharmacies have blocked zero purchases. Michigan pharmacies, which have been using the system for one to three months, have blocked a total of 5,825 purchases since November.
Berrien County officers have already made three arrests using information gained by the system.
“It helps our drug unit to identify people in a quick manner,” said Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey.
Cass County Sheriff Joseph Underwood said his department has arrested nine people thanks to NPLEx. His department also removed two children from meth households.
“I think that is the bigger part of the picture here. It is not just affecting the person out making those purchases, it is affecting the whole family,” Underwood said.
The law enforcing the system went into effect Jan. 1, but many retailers began using it in November. During that time, Michigan residents legally purchased 567,000 boxes of medicine.
“I sponsored this law because the NPLEx e-tracking system is the most effective means to combat meth production without unfairly impacting a resident’s access to necessary cold medications,” Proos said.