usa-map usa-map

Learn more about the dangers of smurfing here

Learn more

Bluegrass Beacon: Common Sense Approach To Fighting Meth Is Paying Off

Forgive me, but I want to say to the pencil-pushing Kentucky State Police lobbyists and the drug task-force zealots: We told you so.

A common-sense approach to fighting the scourge of methamphetamine not only won out in the legislature – where, in 2012, politicians who preferred taking the sledgehammer-to-an-ant approach to the problem were politically defeated – but more important, it’s winning where it counts: Kentucky is making real progress in reducing the number of meth labs and the amount of pseudoephedrine (PSE) purchased for making meth.

According to the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy:

  • The number of meth labs in the Bluegrass State is now roughly half of what it was in 2011 – dropping from 1,233 in 2011 to 668 in 2013.
  • PSE sales are down year-over-year by about 12 percent.
  • The number of unique buyers is down by 10 percent, dispelling fears that lower limits on how much over-the-counter PSE could be purchased would lead to an increase in “smurfing,” a practice in which meth cooks pay others to purchase pseudoephedrine for them.

Only people whose heads are firmly planted in the sand somewhere deny the serious challenges Kentucky faces in dealing with the terribly destructive meth scourge – as well as heroin overdoses and prescription-drug abuse.

But like Gov. Steve Beshear once said, we need to be “tough on crime while being smart on crime.”

Granted, Beshear made that comment while signing a bill implementing long-overdue criminal-justice reforms – which he also referenced as “common sense” steps – into law. But doesn’t that also apply to the way we should approach drug-related criminal activity?

Passing the legislation preferred by those looking to force all Kentuckians to obtain a prescription before they could even purchase a box of Sudafed at the corner drugstore not only would further eroded the liberties of law-abiding citizens, it would sideline the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx) – a tracking system that’s proving to be one of law enforcement’s most successful anti-meth weapons.

If those not satisfied with the less-is-more approach when it comes to government’s involvement in the push against meth had gotten their way in 2012, the NPLEx tool – which tracks PSE purchases – actually would not now be available for law enforcement to use to illegal purchasing activity. The dissatisfied offered legislative proposals that labeled PSE as a “controlled substance,” which would cause privacy laws to kick in, thus preventing the use of NPLEx.

New data show that NPLEx is a wildly huge success, having already stopped the sale in 2014 of more than 23,000 boxes of pseudoephedrine to would-be abusers and mis-users.

Similar results are being reported in an increasing number of states using NPLEx. More states likely will sign on as the system continues to push key meth-fight indicators downward. Oklahoma and Alabama, for example, are, like Kentucky, preserving the rights of law-abiding citizens while effectively targeting criminals with a meth-offender block list.

Isn’t using common sense and limited-government approaches while achieving what everyone involved in this fight claims to want a better way?

While everyone involved in battling the meth madness wants to rid the Bluegrass State of the use, misuse and abuse of meth, I don’t believe all involved parties are as passionately interested in protecting consumers’ freedoms.

Some in the law-enforcement community sincerely believe those liberties should take a back seat to their anti-drug agenda. However, the latest developments in Kentucky’s fight against meth confirm: we shouldn’t be so quick to surrender those liberties.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him atjwaters@freedomkentucky.com. Read previously published columns at www.bipps.org.