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GetSmart About Drugs - A DEA Resource for Parents

News Release
December 14, 2004

Illinois Continues Fight Against Methamphetamine
New State Law to Reduce Availability of Key Ingredient

CHICAGO – The Drug Enforcement Administration’s Chicago Field Division joined Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Illinois officials as they briefed the Chicagoland area today concerning the Methamphetamine Manufacturing Chemical Retail Sale Control Act, 720 ILCS 647, that will go into effect January 1, 2005. The law, adopted unanimously by the Illinois General Assembly and signed in August by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, is aimed as a statewide response to prevent criminals from manufacturing the illegal drug methamphetamine. Common cold medications ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are also the primary ingredients necessary to make the ‘street drug’ methamphetamine - and retailers will now be regulated as how these products are sold.

The new law requires products such as adult-strength cold tablets that contain ephedrine and pseudoephedrine as their sole active ingredient to be placed behind store counters or in locked cases. Additionally, the law limits sales to no more than two packages of regulated cold tablets per transaction, and requires that the tablets be sold in blister packs as well as in packages containing no more than three grams total of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. The law also makes it illegal for retailers to sell any such products if they have reason to believe the buyer will use the tablets to make methamphetamine.

The regulation of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine is a vital part of the overall strategy to combat the spread of methamphetamine abuse. Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are the primary ingredients necessary to make methamphetamine. These chemicals are commonly available as single entity or combination over the counter products. The Federal Government and DEA have had a long history of chemical regulation and have seen that as precursor chemicals are regulated their availability to drug trafficking organizations decreases, resulting in the disruption and or dismantling of their ability to manufacture illegal drugs.

Until the late 1980’s, methamphetamine’s popularity was primarily confined to the West Coast and the southwest. By the early 1990’s, methamphetamine was gaining in popularity, spreading west to east across the country, and hitting rural areas particularly hard. At present, the United States is experiencing an unprecedented rise in the use, trafficking, and manufacturing of methamphetamine. The wholesale abuse of the drug itself is serious enough. But when the toxic environmental effects from unregulated chemicals used in clandestine laboratories are factored in, we see that methamphetamine is taking a terrible toll. No community is immune.

For the first time in law enforcement history, beginning around 1994, Mexican drug trafficking organizations operating out of Mexico and California began to take control of the production and distribution of methamphetamine from outlaw motorcycle gangs. The DEA estimates that the majority of the US methamphetamine production and distribution is controlled by Mexican crime groups operating out of Mexico, California and the Southwestern US. The dominate presence of these Mexican methamphetamine trafficking groups can be partially attributed to their access to chemicals such as ephedrine and pseudoephdrine and their ability to establish large scale clandestine labs capable of producing more than 10 pounds of methamphetamine or a “Super lab”.

On a smaller production and distribution scale are the independent operators of Small Toxic Labs or STLs, which collectively account for approximately 95 percent of all lab seizures in the US. STLs produce ounce quantities of methamphetamine for local use and distribution. STLs initially emerged as a problem in the Midwest in the early to mid 1990s. After the introduction of methamphetamine by the Mexican trafficking organizations and the STL operators, users of methamphetamine discovered that they could produce their own drug. These operations became extremely popular because of the simplicity of the Birch, commonly referred to as the “Nazi” method and the red phosphorus/iodine/pseudoephedrine method of manufacturing methamphetamine. Each of these methods relies on readily available and inexpensive products and an uncomplicated production process to manufacture methamphetamine. The ease of manufacturing and the availability of chemicals contribute greatly to the dramatic growth and spread of these labs throughout the United States.

According to the National Drug Intelligence Center or NDIC the 2004 drug threat assessment for methamphetamine reports that methamphetamine availability is very high in the Pacific, Southwest and West Regions. The Great Lakes and Southeast regions methamphetamine availability has increased to such a level that most state and local law enforcement agencies now report that availability of the drug is either high or moderate in their areas. Methamphetamine availability in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions is low but increasing.

Illinois is not only faced with large quantities of methamphetamine produced by Mexican based drug trafficking organizations being transported into the state for use and/or further transit through Chicago to other areas, but by perhaps a greater problem, in the increasing number of STLs operating in the State by independent traffickers that are manufacturing methamphetamine for abuse local addicts. Starting in 1999 the State of Illinois has seen a steady and dramatic increase in the number of STLs seized by DEA and state and local agencies. According to the El Paso Intelligence Center or EPIC, Illinois in 1999 had 125 clandestine lab related seizures and in 2004 Illinois has already had 832 clandestine lab related seizures.

There are several components to combating the overall methamphetamine problem: enforcement of drug laws; a comprehensive domestic and international precursor chemical control; the identification and cleanup of the growing number of ecological hazards caused by small toxic laboratories; education of the public as to the warning signs and hazards in our communities; and the treatment of those addicts whose lives have been destroyed by meth abuse. Attorney General Madigan and the State of Illinois have made great strides in this effort with the controls placed on the precursors ephedrine and pseudoephedrine by the Methamphetamine Manufacturing Chemical Retail Sale Control Act. The DEA commends all of the various states nationwide that have taken the initiative to reduce access to the products used in the production of methamphetamine. For more information concerning the Illinois Methamphetamine Manufacturing Chemical Retail Sale Control Act, please visit www.IllinoisAttorneyGeneral.gov/methnet.

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