By Rob Savage
The men and women of Alabama’s law enforcement agencies are on the front lines in the fight against methamphetamine production and abuse. As a member of that community, I can attest first hand that we have benefitted tremendously from the real-time, stop-sale technology adopted by the Alabama Legislature two years ago.
That system—known as the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx)—helps police officers track suspicious sales of the decongestant pseudoephedrine (PSE). Meth makers sometimes use PSE to manufacture the illegal street drug. We use NPLEx to target suspects and develop cases that help us put criminals behind bars and keep drugs off the streets.
As helpful as NPLEx has been, we will soon be getting additional tools in our fight. Two weeks ago, Governor Bentley signed into law an anti-meth bill authored by Representative Blaine Galliher and Senator Bill Holtzclaw. Once implemented, the new law will make Alabama one of the toughest anti-meth states in the country.
The new law provides law enforcement with several new tools.
First, it implements stricter criminal penalties for individuals convicted of meth-related crimes. Individuals caught buying PSE for meth cooks, for instance, will now be charged with a felony. This common-sense move will help law enforcement crack down even more on the practice known as “smurfing”—when meth cooks hire several people to purchase small amounts of PSE from multiple locations.
Another important component of our new meth law is the creation of a meth offender registry, something lawmakers in Tennessee recently established. Under such a registry, the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center (ACJIC) will keep a record of all Alabamians with drug charges and share this information with NPLEx. Armed with that information, the stop-sale system will automatically block pseudoephedrine sales to individuals on the meth offender registry for a period of seven to ten years depending on the offense.
The new law also includes a reasonable reduction to the amount of PSE Alabamans can purchase. While current federal and state law allows sales of up to 9 grams of PSE per person per month, the bill would sensibly reduce this amount to 7.5 grams per month. This reduction gives law-abiding Alabamans the medicine they need to treat colds and allergies while making it more difficult for criminals to abuse it.
Lastly, under current law, customers can use any government-issued ID (or multiple IDs) to purchase special allergy medicines. The new law limits purchases to only those with a government-issued driver’s license photo, military issued photo ID, or government-issued photo non-driver’s license. This step will help stop dubious sales of PSE. This common-sense measure will stop individuals from neighboring states from being able to drive into Alabama to buy PSE.
Rep. Galliher and Senator Holtzclaw are to be commended for writing a bill that strengthens the law against the production and sale of meth without forcing law-abiding citizens to go to the doctor to get a prescription for cold and allergy medicines.
Just as importantly, the new law will assist law enforcement officials in tracking illegal activity—and ultimately— lead to more arrests. We welcome this support.
Rob Savage is the Commander of the Etowah County Drug Enforcement Unit. He can be reached at [email protected].