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Lawmaker: Battle meth by targeting the criminals

2.1.16– Representative Dave Frizzell, Evansville Courier & Press

Over the past few months, we’ve seen an uptick in local news stories addressing the meth problem in our state and the varied legislative proposals floating around to reduce the number of meth labs in our state. The fact that several members of the Indiana General Assembly, including myself, have spent time on new, anti-meth lab legislative proposals speaks volumes. We need to address the meth problem that is running rampant through our communities. My bill, House Bill 1157, allows us to curb one form of criminal meth activity we can control, the sale of medicine containing pseudoephedrine (PSE) to anyone previously convicted of a drug felony.

Let me preface this by saying, it is important that we do not act too drastically and pass legislation that would unfairly punish honest, law-abiding Hoosiers. While PSE can be an ingredient in meth lab production, it also is found within effective, safe and widely used allergy and flu medicine. The answer is NOT to require a prescription for anyone who wanted to access cold and allergy medicine containing PSE, because it is used by some criminals to make meth. A prescription requirement would lead to considerably longer wait times at the doctor’s office and cost families millions in expenditures related to co-pays, travel costs and time off work. This does not even take into account that nearly 25 percent of Hoosiers live in areas without enough doctors to see patients as it is now.

The alternative is to strike the right balance. My bill, HB 1157, would use the existing National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx) system to automatically block the sale of PSE to known drug felons, only punishing those who have already shown a willingness to break the law.

Two states that have enacted similar legislation, Alabama and Oklahoma, have seen great success reducing the number of meth labs in their respective states. Alabama saw a staggering 80 percent reduction in meth lab seizures. This success lead the state’s Attorney General to say in 2014, “We now have the toughest laws against methamphetamine in the U.S. Alabama is literally a role model for addressing this scourge.”

Even more impressive is that Oklahoma saw a dramatic 90 percent decrease in the number of meth labs seizures after they began banning the sale of PSE to known criminals. According to Mark Woodward of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, “By adding 19,000 known meth offenders to the meth registry, Oklahoma has been able to see a tremendous decline in meth lab incidents.”

These facts prove policy works. My legislation won’t solve the problem overnight but it moves us a step in the right direction without compromising the rights of our residents and restricting access to medicine they rely on. While there will be many ways to solve the meth lab problem, we must work together to make sure the General Assembly accepts proposals that would ensure that cold and allergy sufferers are not unfairly targeted.

HB 1157 and its accompanying Senate bill (SB 161) are the only pieces of proven, anti-meth legislation that make sense for our community. As with any piece of legislation, I relish the robust debate our chamber engages in as we try to decide on the best legislation for our state. But I do hope that we can all agree that we should not punish honest Hoosiers because of the misdeeds of meth criminals. I urge my colleagues to join me to support HB 1157.

Read more here.