Drug investigators in Northwest Georgia could be the first to test a program to track electronically the sale of over-the-counter medicines used to make methamphetamine.
A $70,000 earmark that would pilot the program in the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit was included in the Georgia House of Representatives budget passed last week. The circuit covers Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade and Walker counties.
“What we are ultimately doing is looking at ways to increase public safety and make it more difficult for people to skirt around the laws to abuse drugs,” State Rep. Jay Neal, R-LaFayette, said.
Retailers already are required to keep a written log of who purchases pseudoephedrine products such as cold or allergy medicines.
Those drugs contain a key ingredient used in makeshift meth labs. But the only way for police to track who is purchasing the medicine is through manual checks.
“This (electronic database) would be a way to streamline that information into a centralized location,” said Larry Black, commander of the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force.
“It would be a tremendous help,” Mr. Black said. “It would speed up the work we have to do manually now, where officers have to individually follow up on the intelligence information generated at the markets.”
Tennessee investigators also arecworking on an electronic database to store pseudoephedrine sales information, said Mike Hall, director of the 10th Judicial District Drug Task Force in Cleveland, Tenn.
LaFayette, Ga., pharmacist Madison Ledford said he wouldn’t mind entering pseudoephedrine sales into a computer database, as long as the state pays for the software.
“I understand this meth problem. It’s huge,” said Mr. Ledford, owner of Ledford’s Rx Express Pharmacy. “We try to help every way we can.”
The program isn’t funded yet, however.
Rep. Neal said it’s a tight budget year and some initiatives such as the pseudoephedrine program face cuts. The Senate is considering its version of the budget this week.
“When you have to start looking at ways to reduce spending and meet basic needs, then I don’t think anything is guaranteed,” Rep. Neal said.
“This certainly qualifies in the public safety realm, and it fits when you look at the priorities of the House,” he said. “Now whether we are going to be able to see it through, we’ll have to see what happens over the next couple of weeks.”
WHAT IS METH?
Methamphetamine is a highly addictive, synthetically produced central nervous system stimulant. It is produced in clandestine laboratories using common store-bought materials such as cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine.
Source: U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency