Entities take further steps regarding meth

By Tony Parra

Local government entities are trying to stop of the stream of meth drugs in Roosevelt County and this week the federal government made its move to stop the stream of meth drugs from Mexico.
Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler said approximately 80 to 85 percent of meth drugs are imported to New Mexico from either from California or super labs from Mexico.
Chandler said the reason meth labs in Mexico are called super labs is because they are larger in size with more quantity of meth being produced.
“Methamphetamines crossing the borders have been a substantial amount of the meth seen in the area,” Chandler said. “If we have serious efforts from city, county, state and federal governments we can stop the flow of meth drugs.”
U.S. Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., voted for two amendments late Tuesday which would provide more resources to Mexico and other countries to crack down on methamphetamine drug traffickers, according to a press release from Udall’s office. Both amendments were offered to the FY2006-07 Foreign Relations Authorization Act.
“The increasingly widespread production, distribution and use of meth are now affecting communities of all sizes,” Udall said. “Passing tougher meth laws locally and nationally will not have much of an effect if we do not have international cooperation. Congress needs to do everything possible to help local law enforcement battle this scourge.”
The House approved a proposal directing the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs to make combating meth from Mexico. The amendment authorizes $4 million in 2006 and in 2007 for the bureau to work with Mexican law enforcement to crack down on meth smuggling into the United States.
Chandler said there have been instances in which meth drugs have been smuggled into Roosevelt and Curry counties via California, Arizona and El Paso. He said in one particular case law enforcement intercepted a FedEx package containing Barbie dolls with meth drugs inside.
The chamber also passed an amendment to require the U.S. State Department to track the world’s biggest exporters of pseudoephedrine — the main ingredient in meth — and the countries with the highest imports of the ingredient. Countries could lose up to 50 percent of their U.S. aid if the department considers them uncooperative.
Chandler is hoping Roosevelt County, Curry County, City of Portales and City of Clovis pass an ordinance he recently presented to all four entities. The ordinance restricts the sales of sinus decongestants with pseudoephedrine to three boxes per transaction and customers must fill registration forms with their address and present photo identification.
“If we can stop meth production on a local level and a state level, stop importation and have strict sentences and punishments we can win the drug war,” Chandler said.
A study issued earlier this month by the National Association of Counties (NACo) surveyed 500 county law enforcement agencies located in 45 states and nearly 60 percent of counties reported meth is their largest drug problem.
The survey found that 87 percent of law enforcement agencies reported increases in meth related arrests, starting three years ago. Chandler reported that 70 percent of crimes in Roosevelt and Curry counties are meth-related.
Chandler announced the methamphetamine ordinance proposed by law enforcement is in final form and ready to be voted on by Curry County, Roosevelt County, City of Portales and the City of Clovis.
A task force met Friday in Clovis with the intent to put more clarity into the proposed ordinance.
One section of the meth ordinance drew some criticism for being too open ended, however. It states that the registration forms, or logs, may be used for drug enforcement or “other lawful purposes.”
The section caught the attention of former Lt. Gov. Walter Bradley of Clovis, who felt the wording was too broad. City Commissioner Fred Van Soelen, who is also a prosecutor in the district attorney’s office, said data collected on the logs may be needed for use in criminal proceedings — for instance, to disprove a suspect’s alibi.
The task force agreed to limit the provision and only allow use of the logs for drug enforcement or “for other criminal investigations.”
Several attendees took issue with the log provision altogether, which will record who is purchasing hard-form pseudoephedrine-based drugs in the area. Among those opposed to the provision is Curry County Sheriff Roger Hatcher.
“It just seems like an infringement on the rights of the law-abiding citizen to try to get information that would otherwise be protected under the (Bill of Rights),” he said Saturday. “A big part of my oath of office (is) that I would support the Constitution of the United States, and I see this as a violation to some of those rights.”
However, Kevin Spears of the district attorney’s office said those buying cold medicine can avoid the registration process entirely by simply selecting the gel tablet form of the drugs, a point underscored Saturday by Chandler. Police say pseudoephedrine can’t be extracted from gel tablets with the same ease as the hard-form drug.
Law enforcement agents said they could use the logs to track mass purchases of pseudoephedrine products, which could help identify meth producers.
Some provisions of the ordinance include:
• Moving all non-gel tablets of pseudoephedrine behind a retailer’s counter or in a locked display case.
• Requiring all purchasers of non-gel tablets of pseudoephedrine present photo ID, allow their name to be recorded to a list which will be accessible only by law enforcement officers
• Restricting the sale of all non-gel tablets of pseudoephedrine to quantities of no more than three packages, not to exceed 100 tablets per transaction without a valid prescription.
The task force is not planning on meeting again before local entities vote on the ordinance.

FNNM Staff Writer David Irvin contributed to this report.