SIKESTON - The Missouri Sheriffs Association is endorsing bills introduced in the Missouri House and Senate to address the production of methamphetamine.
"It's something I'm excited about," said Scott County Sheriff Rick Walter. "Oklahoma has this same bill and it reduced their meth problem out there." The Oklahoma Meth Bill reportedly resulted in an 80 percent reduction in meth crimes in that state.
"If it can reduce our meth problem like it has worked in Oklahoma that would be great," Walter said. "We're still leading the nation in the manufacture and use of methamphetamine."
Since Walter became sheriff at the beginning of the year, the Scott County Sheriff's Department has already closed down a half dozen meth labs, he said.
Supporters of House Bill 441, known as the "S.T.O.P. Meth Act" which stands for the Securing and Tracking of Pseudoephedrine, hope the bill could be passed as early as March and as an emergency measure so it would go into effect immediately after being passed.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Scott Lipke of Jackson, held a press conference Friday at the Cape Girardeau County Justice Center in Jackson along with a bipartisan group of the bill's co-sponsors including Republican Rep. Bob Behnen of Kirksville, Republican Rep. Jack Goodman of Mt. Vernon and Democrat Rep. Wes Wagner of DeSoto.
Among those attending the conference were members of the Missouri State Highway Patrol Drug Control Division, Walter, Capt. Jim Hailey of the Sikeston Department of Public Safety, and representatives from other area law enforcement agencies.
"I think the legislators are sending a real clear message they're going to do everything they can to fight the manufacture and subsequent use of methamphetamine and try to minimize the damage it does to families and peoples' health and their lives," said Hailey. "They're taking a 'get tough' stance on it."
The bill, as well as its counterpart Senate Bill 10, would create additional restrictions on the sale of compounds containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine.
"They're gong to limit what you could buy in a 30-day period," Walter said. "You're going to have to show a photo ID when you buy it, which should deter some people."
Purchasers would be limited to nine grams per month.
The products would be kept behind a counter and the pharmacy would be required to keep a record of all sales subject to inspection by law enforcement officials.
Those using the products for colds, however, would still be able to get the products by just going to the pharmacy, Hailey said. "You don't have to get a prescription for it," he said.
Mick Covington, interim director of the Missouri Sheriffs Association, said in a press release announcing the Association's endorsement that "the passage of these measures would greatly assist law enforcement in the State of Missouri. We encourage the passage of this legislation and thank the bills' sponsors for their leadership on this issue."
Local law enforcement officials said they believe this bill could really make a difference in Missouri. "I think it will - it's shown to in other states," said Hailey.
Walter said he hasn't heard any negative comments about the legislation. "This is something where we're being proactive for a change instead of reactive," he said. "With this bill we're cutting out the main ingredient for meth, or at least controlling it. We should see a big reduction in these meth labs we are running around trying to get."