News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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January 30, 2014

Four bills hope to battle Indiana’s meth scourge

TERRE HAUTE — The clandestine production of methamphetamine remains a concern for Indiana legislators who have submitted four bills in this session of the General Assembly in an effort to combat the state’s meth scourge.

Those who deal with meth-related crimes in Vigo County are also keeping a close eye on and fingers crossed for passage of legislation that could change who gets access to the essential ingredient within home-cooked meth.

n State Sen. Tim Skinner (D-Terre Haute) has authored SB 309, which would classify ephedrine and pseudoephedrine products as controlled substances to be dispensed by prescription only.

n House Bill 1248 by Rep. Ben Smaltz (R-Indianapolis) also classifies the essential ingredients in methamphetamine as a controlled substance to be dispensed by prescription only.

n House Bill 1106 by Rep. Rebecca Kubacki (R-Indianapolis) and Senate Bill 243 by Sen. Susan Glick (R-Indianapolis) also require prescriptions for products containing the common cold medicines.

At the request of Rep. Alan Morrison (R-Seelyville), Terre Haute Police Sgt. Chris Gallagher and Officer Ryan Adamson traveled to the Indiana Statehouse this week to testify about how rescheduling pseudoephedrine, or PSE, as a controlled substance will reduce the clandestine production of meth.

“I don’t think the issue is going to go away,” Gallagher told the Tribune-Star, “and I can only hope that each time I testify, a few more legislators will get turned around on the issue.”

Gallagher said the retail industry has lobbied hard to keep pseudoephedrine available as an over-the-counter medication because it is a money-maker for the pharmaceutical industry and for retailers. But an estimated 70 to 90 percent of the PSE sold in Indiana is diverted to meth, he said, rather than for treatment of cold symptoms.

Fortunately in Terre Haute, many of the locally owned and operated pharmacies are already requiring that people purchasing pseudoephedrine products have a prescription, even though that is not required by law, he said.

“They recognize the problem,” Gallagher said.

Vigo County Prosecutor Terry Modesitt said the retail chain Walgreen’s also has recognized the problem and will not dispense pseudoephedrine products without a prescription in Terre Haute.

Modesitt said he supports a proposed change to the new legislation that will give local governments the right to enact the prescription-only requirements in their own communities.

“It’s our problem as far as the meth epidemic in this area,” Modesitt said, “and if we can get our local officials to make it prescription-only by local rule, then it takes that decision out of state hands, and we can deal with it here.”

Gallagher said clandestine meth production remains a problem throughout the Wabash Valley. Not as many labs are found these days, he said, because the meth cookers have adapted to law changes such as the tracking of PSE sales.

“We do have three generations of better-educated meth cookers,” Gallagher said of Terre Haute.

All of the proposed meth-related bills have been assigned to legislative committees for debate and votes before they can go to the full Senate and House for consideration.

HB 1248 was amended in committee to include the local government option, but there was no vote taken on the final bill to move it to the floor.

“I know there will be continued conversation on this matter over the summer and hopefully we can get the bill to the point where we can vote on it as a body,” Rep. Morrison told the Tribune-Star. “I think our biggest obstacle is building a big enough coalition of representatives who are not in areas with meth problems to jump on board.  There is a group of us working on building that group and I think we will ultimately get there.”

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

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