Methamphetamine drug production could be cut in half if state lawmakers would approve tighter controls on readily available ingredients used to make the illegal drug, an official with an Oklahoma drug fighting agency said at a national conference.
More than 300 drug agents, prosecutors, treatment providers and lawmakers were told at the National Methamphetamine Legislative and Policy Conference last week in St. Paul, Minn., that controlling the sale of nonprescription pseudoephedrine is the key to cutting meth production.
Mark Woodward, a spokesman for the Bureau of Narcotics in Oklahoma, said his state has seen a 36 percent reduction in the number of meth labs discovered since lawmakers enacted controls on the sale of psuedoephedrine, a decongestant used in cold and allergy medication.
"The impact has been profound," Woodward said. "For the last 10 years, meth has been our No. 1 focus, and we didn't want it to be."
Oklahoma narcotics officials estimated their new law requiring cold and allergy sufferers to make pseudoephedrine purchases at pharmacy counters will save the state at least $1.55 million this year, because an estimated 444 fewer lab cleanups will be needed by the end of the year.
In many states, including Iowa, pseudoephedrine is available at convenience stores, grocery stores and other retail outlets.
Last year, a bill almost identical to Oklahoma's new law was abandoned by the Iowa Legislature.
Lawmakers opted for limiting package sales of single-ingredient pseudoephedrine products, excluding a much wider array of multi-ingredient pseudoephedrine products used to make roughly 98 percent of meth produced in Iowa.
As a result, Iowa drug czar Marvin Van Haafton said the state wound up with the weakest law among 14 states that have moved to curb precursor sales.
Gov. Tom Vilsack is expected to revive the idea in a new meth-control strategy at a Newton forum on Nov. 16.
"This is clearly an issue we need to revisit," Vilsack said last week.
Van Haafton predicted Iowa could easily cut the state's domestic meth labs by 50 percent if legislators enacted changes similar to Oklahoma's.