By Tony Parra
A Roosevelt County ordinance placing stricter restrictions on the sale of certain decongestants used in the production of methamphetamines could be in place as soon as late August.
Roosevelt County commissioners unanimously passed a notice of intent for an ordinance restricting the sale of drugs containing pseudoephedrine during Tuesday’s county meeting.
The ordinance will carry a limitation of three boxes of medicines containing pseudoephedrine. Pseudoephedrine is the main ingredient in many cold medicines, but placed in the “wrong hands,” as Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler characterized, can be used to make meth.
Chandler said 50 percent of the jail population in the United States stems from meth-related crimes. He said more than 70 percent of the district’s cases in Roosevelt and Curry counties are meth-related.
“It’s (meth use) been declared the gateway to all crimes,” Chandler said.
Clovis City Commissioners voted on July 7 to introduce the ordinance. An informational presentation was given to Curry County commissioners on Tuesday during the county meeting. Portales city councilors heard a presentation from Chandler during the city meeting on Tuesday evening and intend to place it on the agenda for their next meeting in two weeks.
Chandler said meth producers are attracted to the profit made from the sale of the drug. Chandler said a good meth cook can purchase supplies and ingredients for about $70 and make $1,000 in sales.
“This drug has hit home for a lot of people,” Dennis Lopez, county commissioner, said. “It’s a drug that doesn’t discriminate.”
Lopez also works at the Mental Health Resources Inc. in Portales and said he deals with the consequences of meth use.
“I’ve seen it affect the rich and the poor — white, black, Hispanic,” Lopez said. “It’s created severe mental illnesses.”
Chandler wants to see a reduction in meth labs in Roosevelt and Curry Counties much like the decreases Oklahoma went through.
Oklahoma’s Legislature endorsed similar legislation during the 2004 legislative session. Oklahoma averaged 105 meth lab busts per month before the restrictions and once the law took into effect the number dropped to 19 per month, according to an Associated Press article mentioned during Chandler’s presentation.
Chandler said once Oklahoma had the laws in place meth labs increased in surrounding states such as Kansas, Missouri and Texas. Texas and Missouri has since passed similar restrictions, according to Chandler. He said he believes this means meth producers will target states without restrictions on sales such as New Mexico.
Commissioner Tom Clark asked what was to keep a meth producer from hopping from store to store buying three boxes from each store.
Chandler said Portales Police Department Capt. Lonnie Berry and Clovis Police Department Chief Bill Carey would pick up registries filled at the stores to see a trend in the purchases which may give them tips to finding meth producers.
Roosevelt County Administrator Charlene Hardin said the next step for the county is to hold a public hearing on Aug. 2 to listen to county residents’ opinion on the ordinance, followed by a resolution to approve the ordinance Aug. 16. If approved, then the ordinance takes effect five days later.
The main provisions of the ordinance:
• Only applies to hard-pill and powder-form of the pseudoephedrine-based drugs
• Buyers will have to provide name, address and license number
• Affected forms of medicine will be placed behind the counter
• Maximum of three boxes per transaction