Meth slowing the flow

Published 6:17 pm Sunday, October 21, 2012

It hasn’t been that long since methamphetamine was a rural drug and farms were under siege by makers for anhydrous ammonia storage tanks for growing fruit and vegetables.

As the threat evolved, and mobile one-pot cooks replaced big labs, the precursor chemical in an insidious crystal meth cocktail became common over-the-counter pseudoephedrine blister packs which make allergy congestion bearable.

“There will always be American ingenuity at the base of the need to feed that drug habit. They will find a new way,” state Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, told the League of Women Voters of Berrien and Cass counties Friday at Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve.

Oregon made it a prescription drug. Michigan sought a different solution with a log system where purchasers furnish name, address and date of birth by a driver’s license scan.

That crimped “smurfing,” where a person travels store to store stockpiling modern meth’s main ingredient.

“Most smurfs are not cookers — they’re buyers to make money,” Bailey said.

“Laws I wrote and worked with industry to implement to try to address this at the point of purchase will not fix the problem forever,” Proos said. “One-pot cooks can happen in your car on the way to pick up your kids at daycare.”

Public Act 84 of 2011 made Michigan the 18th state using an online tracking system called the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx).

The National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators provides NPLEx at no cost to retailers or consumers in states with legislation requiring real-time electronic monitoring of precursor purchase.

Proos said only law enforcement officers view information in the system.

When a pharmacist or store clerk swipe’s a driver’s license, a simple “yes” or “no” appears on the screen, based on federal guidelines for milligrams in 24 hours or MG in a month.

“Now 23 states,” including Indiana, “are part of this NPLEx system,” Proos said. “Eighty percent of providers are online in Michigan. Since Jan. 1, there have been 1.7 million purchases, 3.5 million grams sold, 1.8 million boxes, 39,500 blocks — 122,7893 grams and 48,558 boxes stopped at the point of purchase. This won’t fix the problem, but it certainly helps slow it down until a better mousetrap is built.”

The sheriff said, “We’re taking a proactive approach trying to help our people who made bad choices and come to the county jail or prison. I testified before John Proos’ committee about how important the prison re-entry program, which Michigan Works! runs in Berrien County, to address social issues of people who have been incarcerated because 97 percent come back to our communities. Where are they going to live, how can they get jobs, how can we address their educational problems? We saw a need so they become productive citizens who don’t re-offend. Berrien County was a pilot for the state. Our prison system costs $2 billion a year to operate and $9 million to run the county jail, which has lots of programs in place to help them out,” from GED to drug addiction and faith.

Berrien County first adopted drug team millage in 1984.

“We do 100 to 130 search warrants each year with information from citizens, Crime Stoppers and other police agencies. Lt. Robert Boyce is over the drug unit,” Bailey said. “We need to get back to talking to our young people in school so they know what that drug’s going to do if they use it. Meth makes you agitated, suspicious and you don’t sleep for days. It’s more prevalent in rural Cass and Van Buren counties, but it’s in Berrien County.

”Between meth, crack, heroin and all the drugs out there, we spent over $400,000 at Lakeland Hospital addressing incarcerated medical needs. It would probably be closer to $2 million if we kept everyone in jail. We spent over $150,000 on dialysis for three inmates. We’d like to save that money for good things.”