Dec. 2, 2013. Criminals who make meth are now banned from having the drug’s main ingredient and will serve more time behind bars if their illegal drug labs endanger children, seniors, or the disabled, Attorney General Roy Cooper said Monday.
“Meth labs and the highly-addictive drug they produce don’t belong in our communities, and this new law gives us more tools in the fight against meth,” Cooper said.
A law that took effect December 1 makes it a felony for any convicted meth cook or user to possess products containing pseudoephedrine, found in some cold medicines and the key ingredient needed to make the highly addictive illegal drug methamphetamine. Meth cooks also face stiffer sentences under the new law if they make meth around children, seniors or the disabled.
The new law is expected to help agents with the State Bureau of Investigation, which responds to all meth labs found in North Carolina, fight a rising tide of dangerous illegal drug labs. Agents can use the law to target meth cooks and those who supply meth labs with pseudoephedrine, sometimes called smurfs.
Meth labs have surged in North Carolina and nationwide as a simpler method for making small amounts of the drug spreads statewide. Law enforcement has discovered more than 500 meth labs in North Carolina so far in 2013, beating last year’s record of 460 labs.
Approximately 85 percent of the meth labs busted in the state this yearused the “one-pot” method, which uses a small amount of pseudoephedrine to cook meth in a plastic soda bottle. The new law makes it illegal for a convicted meth cook or user to have any pseudoephedrine, even the small amount needed for a one pot lab.
When SBI agents respond to meth labs, they often find children, senior citizens, or disabled people living in the home where the drug is being made. Under the new law, anyone convicted of manufacturing meth around a child, senior or person with disabilities will see an additional 24 months added to their sentence.
“Even a small meth lab can give off toxic fumes, cause fires, or explode,” Cooper said. “Meth labs are especially dangerous to kids and other vulnerable people, and they deserve the extra protection included in the new law.”
In 2013, 91 children and seniors have been found living around meth labs. When a vulnerable person is removed from a meth lab home, their clothing and other belongings usually have to be destroyed because of the hazardous fumes given off during the cooking process.
The SBI is the only statewide agency in North Carolina with agents who are trained and equipped to dismantle meth labs safely, and it plans to ask legislators for additional agents to keep up with the demand. Seven SBI agents currently work full time responding to meth labs, while other agents throughout the state assist in the dismantling and disposal of meth labs on top of their full-time assignments.
In addition to busting more labs, the added agents would be able to work more long-term investigations and open more investigations using a new electronic system that tracks pseudoephedrine purchases and blocks illegal sales, the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx).
“Stronger laws and upgrades in technology will help, but North Carolina needs more agents to bust meth labs and arrest meth makers and traffickers,” Cooper said.