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Statewide Campaign Against ‘Smurfing’ In Meth Trade Kicks Off In Tulsa

Authorities across the state have used a variety of tactics to stem the flow of methamphetamine into and around Oklahoma, including pseudoephredrine purchase limits and a comprehensive tracking system.

On Thursday, the latest strategy was announced — a public awareness campaign aimed at curbing the practice of “smurfing” that is so prevalent in the state.

Smurfing — when a third party buys pseudoephedrine for a meth cook who may be barred from such purchases — is tough to stop, Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris said. Meth cooks can recruit drug abusers, homeless people, single parents or students — anyone who could use a quick dollar — to purchase the medication for them.

Sen. Rick Brinkley, R-Owasso, said at a news conference announcing the campaign that past tactics have reduced the number of Oklahoma methamphetamine labs by 50 percent since 2012. The new campaign should lower that even further, he said.

Part of the public awareness campaign will be to place signs at pharmacies across the state advertising the criminal nature of smurfing — a felony crime that can result in up to 10 years in prison. Five other states use a similar program, according to a media release by state Attorney General Scott Pruitt. All five of those states — Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri and Indiana — have seen “very strong results,” according to the media release.

The posters are not meant to alarm legal purchasers of cold medicine.

Though the number of reported meth labs has decreased, overall meth deaths have not, Brinkley said. Oklahoma Watch reported Wednesdaythat 167 people died in 2013, compared with 140 in 2012.

Tulsa County Sheriff’s Maj. Shannon Clark said deputies see methamphetamine on a daily basis, not only at the small “one-pot,” or “shake-and-bake” levels, but in large amounts trafficked from out of the state or internationally.

Where meth differs from some other drugs, Clark said, is that in can be produced in mass quantities by a group or organization, or it can be manufactured in small quantities by a single person with household items.

“It could be (produced) in a car, or in a hotel or in a barn,” Clark said. “It can be made with little to no effort.”

Pruitt said the supply — it’s easy to make — and demand — Harris said it’s the most addictive drug he’s had to prosecute — make fighting meth production an uphill battle.

Pruitt said the next step may be better treatment to stop users from harming themselves or ultimately dying.