Gov. Jack Markell has signed two laws to reduce illegal production of methamphetamine in Delaware by making it harder for criminals to gain access to the materials they need to make meth and giving police tools to crack down on its production.
Markell outlined how the laws would close down clandestine labs and help prevent a practice by which criminals make purchases at multiple stores to acquire illegal quantifies of nonprescription pseudoephedrine, which is then used to produce meth.
"Methamphetamine production and use pose serious, and often deadly, risks for users and manufacturers, as well as innocent people who just happen to live in a community where something goes wrong in a secret meth lab," said Markell. "Together, these laws help protect our young people from being introduced to highly addictive drugs and they protect our communities from the extreme health and environmental hazards that can result from exposure to meth."
HB 28, sponsored by Rep. Steve Smyk, R-Milton, and Sen. Bruce Ennis, D-Smyrna, makes it a Class C felony to operate a clandestine laboratory with the intent to unlawfully manufacture a controlled substance or other substance in violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act. A person convicted of operating such a lab would be responsible for associated cleanup costs at the site, recognizing that meth production endangers the people in the labs, neighbors, and the environment because of the potentially explosive and toxic results.
“This bill targets methamphetamine production, but I believe it will be useful for fighting drugs that may not even be on the street yet,” said Smyk. “Police and prosecutors can use this law when dealing with the next problem; the next illegal drug manufactured at tabletop level.”
HB 130, sponsored by Rep. Rebecca Walker,D-Middletown, and Sen. Bethany A. Hall-Long, D-Middletown, will require that pharmacies and retailers selling pseudoephedrine products over the counter submit identifying information of the purchaser to the National Precursor Log Exchange system. It prohibits pharmacies and retailers from completing pseudoephedrine sales in the event that the National Precursor Log Exchange system generates a stop sale alert.
The legislation also provides that the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators will forward Delaware transaction records to the Drug Diversion Unit of the Delaware State Police weekly and provide real-time access to National Precursor Log Exchange information through the National Precursor Log Exchange online portal to law enforcement in the state.
Law enforcement agencies throughout the state have seen a steady increase in methamphetamine arrests. The number of meth-related arrests increased nearly 75 percent from 2011 to 2012. In 2011, there were 23 arrests and in 2012, 40 arrests were made. Delaware has not seen meth-related incidents this high since 2003, when 42 arrests occurred. With this increase, police also are encountering a growing number of clandestine labs used to make meth. In 2011, police uncovered only one meth lab; in 2012, that number increased to 15 and so far this year, police have discovered 11 labs.