The Herald Bulletin

March 16, 2013

Leaders mull meth laws, police fight problem

By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — As mayors across the state urge Indiana lawmakers to take action to combat the problem of methamphetamine abuse, local city leaders remain unsure that new laws are the answer.

Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler joined several other Hoosier mayors testified Wednesday before a House committee considering a bill that would restrict the sales of pseudoephedrine, the key ingredient in homemade meth-cooking methods. The bill, which was already passed by the Indiana Senate, would take several measures to limit excessive purchases of pseudoephedrine, including cutting a consumer’s alloted purchase amount per year from 86.4 grams to 61 grams.

A bill originally proposed to make pseudoephedrine a doctor-prescribed drug failed to make it out of committee.

During the hearing, Tyler said he doesn’t think Indiana can properly solve the issue without action from the Statehouse.

Agencies across the state busted more than 1,700 labs in 2012, the highest mark in Indiana history. Madison County led the state in meth-related arrests in 2012 and was second in the country. The county dismantled 140 meth labs last year, and the Drug Task Force has been making meth lab raids weekly in 2013.

Earlier this month, a third member of the Hedgecraft family of Alexandria was sentenced to prison time after meth-related convictions.

Still, Anderson Mayor Kevin Smith said he has mixed feelings about adding new laws to fight the problem.

“The problem is, pseudoephedrine has legitimate purposes for people who don’t abuse it, and we don’t want to discourage that,” Smith said. “But we definitely have a problem of abuse. But I’m not sure the fix of requiring a doctor’s prescription will resolve the problem.

Smith wanted to make clear he’s been working with mayors and other lawmakers to pursue effective legislation to fight meth abuse that wouldn’t handcuff valid uses of pseudoephedrine.

“This is a heinous problem,” Smith said. “But if you think about the case of drug use in this country in the past, criminals and addicts will find ways around the rules. The laws could be convenient for a while, but it could end up making the problem worse in the long run.

Elwood Mayor Ron Arnold was also unsure of how to deal with the problem. Elwood Public Information Officer Jeff Howe said Arnold declined to speak about the topic because he hasn’t been able to study enough of the proposed legislation.

Drug Task Force officers have said the perception of meth in Madison County could be skewed. They believe meth abuse is nearly uniform across the state, and Madison County’s arrest numbers are high because law enforcement and prosecutors are aggressive in finding labs.

The high arrest and conviction numbers are a source of pride, one officer said.

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