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DA supports anti-meth program

Published 6:04am Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The state attorney general’s office announced a new campaign on Monday to go along with new laws that legislators hope will strengthen the ability to prosecute those who commit or facilitate methamphetamine-related crimes.
Attorney General Luther Strange joined with fellow members of the Alabama Drug Abuse Task Force, the Governor’s Office and various other business and association leaders to launch the “Anti-Smurfing Campaign” that is being sponsored by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which is a national association representing the makers and consumers of over the counter medicines and dietary supplements.
The Anti-Smurfing Campaign is an education program to be carried out on a voluntary basis by pharmacies and retailers throughout the state, and the AG’s Office said Alabama is the first state to participate in the campaign.
According to Strange, the name comes from the term “smurfing,” which is used to describe a situation when criminals have individuals purchase small amounts of pseudoephedrine from several different locations, circumventing the prior law to acquire large quantities for the manufacture of meth.
The purpose of the Anti-Smurfing Campaign is to send a clear message that purchasing pseudoephedrine for a meth cook is a crime that could lead to jail time and other severe consequences.
Strange said that buying a cold or allergy product for a stranger is not an innocent or harmless act but one that could have disastrous effects for the community and tragic effects for children who are endangered by being in the environment of meth labs and drug addicts.
“Methamphetamine is a terrible drug that causes great damage to our society, but I am encouraged that we are continuing to make significant progress against it,” Strange said.
“Our strong, new law is the result of the cooperative efforts of our dedicated law enforcement community, including district attorneys, drug task force leaders, sheriffs, police chiefs; as well as concerned business leaders and others.
“Public education is vital to make our fight against meth more effective, and I commend the CHPA for launching its Anti-Smurfing Campaign in Alabama. Our message is that if you help get medicine for the manufacture of meth, you too are committing a felony crime for which you will face serious consequences.”
Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing said his office is in full support of the new campaign as well as the new laws that will help his office prosecute people who aid in the manufacturing of methamphetamine.
“A lot of people had been supplementing their income by purchasing cold medicine and pseudoephedrine and then selling it to known meth cooks for a high price,” Rushing said.
“It was hard to prosecute these people because they didn’t have any intent to manufacture the meth themselves, and most of the time they would say they didn’t ask the person any questions for why they needed the pseudoephedrine – they would just buy it for them ‘no questions asked.’
“But the new language introduced in these laws will help us prosecute these people who, even though they aren’t making the meth themselves, know there is illegal activity going on and still help facilitate the crime.”
In addition to making smurfing a felony crime, other benefits of these new laws passed by the Alabama Legislature during their recent session include:
• Pseudoephedrine must be kept behind the counter and may only be sold by a licensed pharmacist. It now is a crime for a general retail entity to sell these products.
• More stringent identification requirements are imposed to purchase pseudoephedrine. Only a valid non-suspended drivers’ license, non-drivers’ government ID, military ID or passport may be accepted.
• A drug offender database will be created, by which any person convicted of certain drug offenses would be blocked from purchasing pseudoephedrine for a designated amount of time, ranging from seven to 10 years.
• The new law’s provisions will be integrated into the current computerized system of real-time tracking sales, further enabling law enforcement and pharmacies to combat illegal sales of pseudoephedrine.
• The new law allows local law enforcement and prosecutors, as well as innocent land owners, to recoup the tremendous cost of investigating, prosecuting and cleaning up after the dangerous and often environmentally hazardous clandestine laboratories.
• For the first time ever, the possession of the paraphernalia used in the manufacturing process of methamphetamine and other controlled substances is a class C felony and where a firearm is present, it is enhanced to a class B felony.
Rushing said these new provisions, especially the online database that will prevent certain drug offenders from purchasing pseudo pills, should help in the fight against methamphetamine.
“These changes in the law might be the answer we’ve been looking for to get a handle on the meth epidemic we seem to have in our state,” Rushing said.
“As much trouble as we’ve had here locally, this should be good for Franklin County and we are in full support of the news laws and the new campaign.”

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