House Bill 29, short titled Methamphetamine/Offense/Penalties, passed the State House on Wednesday and moved on to be heard in the Senate on Thursday.
The bill would make it a felony for any convicted meth cook to possess products containing pseudoephedrine, the key ingredient needed to make methamphetamine.
State Attorney General Roy Cooper, who supports the bill, said criminals who make meth could face more jail time and be banned from having the ingredient, if the bill becomes law, and that would help fight the recent surge in meth labs.
“Meth labs threaten our communities with crime, addiction, and even fires, explosions and toxic chemicals,” Cooper said. “We’re working hard to find and stop these dangerous drug labs, and stronger laws will help us.”
Lawmen say meth lab busts reached a new high in 2012, as a simpler method for making small amounts of the illegal drug — called the ‘one pot’ method — spread throughout North Carolina. According to a statement released by the North Carolina Department of Justice, “State Bureau of Investigation agents responded to 460 meth labs in 2012, compared to 344 meth labs in 2011 and 235 labs in 2012. Agents have busted more than 70 labs so far in 2013.”
The ‘one pot’ method uses a small amount of pseudoephedrine to cook meth in a plastic soda bottle. According to the statement, more than 70 percent of the meth labs busted in 2012 were using the ‘one pot’ method.
“I think this is a step towards making it more difficult for people to manufacture meth. If you can’t possess the products to manufacture it, then you can’t manufacture it,” said Richmond County District Attorney Reece Saunders, who also supports the bill.
Not only is the bill looking to make it illegal for a convicted meth cook to possess pseudoephedrine, it is also looking to impose longer jail sentences on convicted meth cooks if they make meth around children, seniors or people who are disabled.
The bill would add 24 months to the prison sentence of a convicted meth cook if there is anyone who lives on the property younger than 18, a disabled person or an elderly adult that resides on the property, and 48 months to the sentence if there is a minor and a disabled or elderly person that lives on the property.
Cooper said the meth labs of any size are especially dangerous for kids and other vulnerable people.
Statewide, 120 children were removed from homes where meth was being manufactured last year, up from 82 in 2011. So far this year, 14 children have been found living around meth labs. When a child is removed from a meth lab home, their clothing, toys and other belongings usually have to be destroyed because of the hazardous fumes given off during the cooking process.
The bill was passed almost unanimously; 116 representatives voted for the bill and one representative voted against the bill.
Representative Kenneth Goodman of Rockingham, for the 66th District, voted for the bill. “I think the bill was good,” he said. Goodman said that the bill passed overwhelmingly.
Representative Garland Pierce, for the 48th District, also voted for the bill. Pierce said he doesn’t believe the bill infringes on anyone’s rights. “I think people understand the damage meth is doing now and can do in the future,” he said.
“We hope it hinders them from being involved in the industry again,” said Pierce.
— Staff Writer Laura Edington can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.