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Small-Production Meth Labs Sharply On The Rise In North Carolina

Whenever there is a market for illegal drugs there will always be people ready to supply those drugs, despite legal challenges and risks. A prime local example is North Carolina's campaign to crack down on methamphetamine manufacturing.

Methamphetamines have been targeted by state lawmakers as one of the most prevalent and dangerous drugs in North Carolina. Possession and manufacturing were apparently so rampant that state lawmakers passed a measure to regulate a key ingredient in 2006.

Now, when you go to a pharmacy to buy any drug containing pseudoephedrine, you are required to show ID. This also limits the quantities you can purchase.

After this law passed, police reported that meth labs in North Carolina dropped 40 percent. Problem solved, right? Well, not exactly. The number of meth labs in the state has been climbing steadily for the last few years. In fact, the number of labs busted by police has risen 50 percent over the last three years.

A Harnett County Sheriff says that meth production is still very much a problem. However, instead of large labs with high production, many more small-production labs have been created. Because pseudoephedrine is hard to buy in large quantities, meth users have adapted more of a do-it-yourself model. That is to say, rather than buying their meth from someone else, many users now make their own.

The 2006 law, while well-intentioned, has created two important problems. First, it has not appreciably reduced meth use or manufacturing. What it has done instead is made manufacturing more prevalent and more difficult to bust. More meth producers making smaller quantities means that police now have to shut down every individual operation rather than cutting off community supplies by shutting down larger operations.

The second problem with the law is that it has graduated many meth users from the crime of simple possession to the more serious crimes of drug manufacturing and trafficking. This means that even if users make meth for their own use, they can be charged with a much more serious crime which carries severe penalties.

Is North Carolina's meth problem solved? Not by a long shot.

Source: NBC 17 News online, "Meth Lab Busts Are Going Up In North Carolina," Jackie Faye, 09 March 2011

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