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Sen. Rick Brinkley And Rep. David Derby: Winning The Unwinnable: Decline Of The Meth Lab

For the better part of a decade, law enforcement fought what many thought was an unwinnable battle in our state’s war against Oklahoma owning the title of “The Meth Capital of the United States.” But, through the concerted efforts of law enforcement officials, the state Legislature, the governor, and the attorney general, we are beginning to win that war. The meth problem in our state is based on the thousands of Oklahomans addicted to the drug. But, it is the meth labs that are a significant problem for law enforcement.

Things have changed, though.  We have seen over the past year those  lab  numbers  cut  in  half thanks to a  series  of  effective  and  innovative  new  anti-­meth laws  and  the  tenacity  of  law enforcement. Although there  is  still  a  lot  of  work  to  be  done,  this  is  welcome progress.

Methamphetamine can often destroy the lives of those who use it.  During the 2012 legislative session, lawmakers faced a fundamental problem:

How do we make significant inroads against the meth problem without penalizing law-­abiding citizens? At  the  time, some lawmakers were proposing a law that would require all citizens to consult with  a doctor  before  buying  cold  and  allergy  medicines  containing  the decongestant pseudoephedrine (PSE)  –  the critical component of meth.

We  opposed  that  approach  because  we  did  not  think  we  should  be  burdening  law-­abiding consumers  with  higher  health-­care  costs  and  additional  doctor’s  appointments  every  year when only  a  small  minority  of  individuals  were  misusing  those  products  to  manufacture meth.

What  we  needed  to  do  was  pass  a  law  that  gave  law  enforcement  better  tools  and prevented criminals  from  being  able  to  freely  obtain  meth  ingredients.

What  we  came  up  with  was  important  enhancements  to  the  state’s  PSE  tracking system so that it worked  across  state  lines  and  in  real  time.  We  also  updated  the  meth offender registry,  which barred  drug  offenders  from  being  able  to  purchase  PSE-­based  products without  a  prescription from  a  doctor.

 These  measures  made  it  much  more  difficult  for  meth  offenders  to  find  ways  to  bypass  the  law, such  as  traveling  to  other  states  or  hiring  so-­called  “smurfs”  to  buy  cold  and  allergy  medicines  on their  behalf.

 Since  we  passed  the  law,  just  under  two  years  ago,  the  results  have  been  stunning.  Recently, Oklahoma  Bureau  of  Narcotics  spokesman  Mark  Woodward  said  that  Oklahoma’s  innovative policy  solutions  to  our  state’s  meth  problem  finally  were  paying  off.  Statewide  meth  lab  busts,  of which  there  were  830  recorded  in  2012,  had  dropped  to  only  410  in  2013.  It  is  a  testament  to  the quality  of  our  law  enforcement  officials  that  we  have  seen  such  improvement.

Although  meth  never  might  be  entirely  eradicated  from  Oklahoma,  we  think  the  progress made should  be  a  model  for  the  rest  of  the  country.

And,  it  is.  Other  states  are  looking  to  Oklahoma’s  legislative  lead  to  address  their  meth problems. We firmly  believe  the  best  way  to  combat  meth  production  and  abuse  is  to give law enforcement the  latest  technology  and  tools  to  target  meth  criminals,  while  also protecting law-abiding consumers from  unnecessary  burdens  and  higher  costs.  There  will never  be  a silver bullet  for  the meth problem, but  what  we  are  seeing  in  Oklahoma  is a promising start. We are grateful to those who fight this battle on our behalf every day and are proud to provide them the best tools to do their job and win.