Michigan has a growing problem with the production and abuse of methamphetamine. The problem is particularly severe in southwest. For example, Kalamazoo County cops completed more meth lab busts in the first half of 2014 than the total number in each of the past four years—accounting for two-fifths of busts across the entire state. A new law that took effect in January aims to reduce the number of meth manufacturers in the state by making it more difficult to obtain large amounts of ingredients. The law comes into force alongside another new law giving police more power to identify and stop people driving under the influence of drugs.
Crackdown on Meth Manufacturing
The laws aiming to reduce methamphetamine manufacturing were signed in June 2014 and include three separate pieces of legislation. The first law prohibits the possession or purchase of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine (ingredients in some cold medicines). Any amount of either substance is sufficient for it to be an offense. A second law forbids asking somebody else to acquire either medicine in the knowledge that it will be used in meth manufacture, and the third makes violating this law a Class D felony with a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail. The laws are designed to crack down on people who buy the ingredients for others to use in meth production, known as “smurfs.” The rules will be aided by state police placing anybody convicted of a meth-related crime into a national database (required by another part of the legislation), which will provide a warning to pharmacists when anyone involved in meth manufacture attempts to purchase the ingredients. At present, there is a similar alert when customers attempt to buy more than an established limit of the substances. Upon signing the legislation, Gov. Rick Snyder commented, “Methamphetamine production and abuse is dangerous not only for those who use the drug, but to the entire community where meth is used or produced. These bills will give law enforcement officials the tools necessary to effectively fight illegal drug production.”
Not Going Far Enough to Stop Production?
There is criticism of the new approach, though, with some arguing that making the drugs prescription-only would be the best way to curb meth manufacture. Statistics show that meth production is on the rise across the whole state, not just in the southwest (although the situation is the most severe there). In 2013, there were 342 busts, the largest number since the figures were first tracked in 2004. In the first half of 2014 alone, there were 217 busts, indicating that last year will set a record. Allegan County Police Chief Rick Hoyer points out, “Meth labs and meth investigations monopolize our drug investigators’ time.” His concerns are echoed by David Boysen, captain of the Kalamazoo Valley drug enforcement team: “I could have my entire team of investigators working on just meth cases, and it would keep them busy, but we can’t ignore heroin, crack cocaine [and] guns on the streets.” Hoyer previously criticized a similar law as “skirting the issue,” arguing that the only way to really curb meth manufacture is to make the ingredients prescription-only, but his viewpoint hasn’t been espoused in the new laws. Opting to make the ingredients prescription-only would reduce access, especially for those convicted of a meth offense, but since it’s an ingredient in many over-the-counter products such as Sudafed, it would reduce the options for people genuinely in need of the medicine and eat up more of physicians’ time.
Drugged Driving Laws
Alongside the rules designed to curb methamphetamine manufacture, another new law gives cops the ability to conduct a roadside test for drugs and intoxicating substances other than alcohol. When caught driving under the influence of drugs, drivers will be given a conditional bond and their information will be placed into a law enforcement database. Both of the new laws promise to reduce the impact of drug use and manufacture on the state of Michigan. Although the meth rules have been criticized, the measures seem like the furthest they can go without impacting the lives of ordinary, law-abiding citizens looking for cold medicines. In combination with the quantity limits already in place, these laws have the ability to drastically reduce meth manufacture in hard-hit areas like the southwest, but their effectiveness (or lack of it) will be seen only as new meth bust statistics become available later in the year.