October 5, 2013
Meth law to take effect
Police praise county limit on sale of drug’s ingredients
With the Cortland County Legislature’s passage of a local law banning the bulk sale of pseudoephedrine, local law enforcement officials are looking forward to having an extra tool to cut down on the manufacture of methamphetamine.
The Legislature passed the law Thursday and it was sent Tuesday to the state Secretary of State to be filed, a necessary step before it becomes law. Legislature Clerk Jeremy Boylan expects the law to be finalized and implemented within three weeks.
The law mimics an existing federal law and gives local police agencies the authority to penalize retailers for selling things like pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) in bulk and also penalize people for buying large quantities of such materials.
People who buy more than 3.6 grams a day or 9 grams in 30 days of substances like ephedrine, pseudoephedrine and phenylpropanolamine base can be charged with a misdemeanor.
The charge could carry a $1,000 penalty and up to a year in jail.
City Police Chief F. Michael Catalano said implementing the law on a local level gives police the ability to prosecute crimes that might otherwise slip through the cracks if kept only at the federal level. A state bill that would limit the sale of medications containing meth precursors to the same level as the federal law has been bogged down in the Assembly after being approved in the Senate.
“We typically enforce local and state laws and when we enforce federal laws we need the assistance of a federal agency and they have many bigger things to do,” Catalano said. “It’s not that they don’t care, it’s just a matter of resources.”
Catalano and county District Attorney Mark Suben both said local pharmacies, which require purchasers of Sudafed to sign a log book, are very compliant and keep good records.
Suben said that by looking through the book and finding people in various stores who have purchased these ingredients, police can cut down on the activity known as “smurfing,” in which people go to different pharmacies and buy small amounts of the ingredients used in producing methamphetamine.
“The whole point is it gives us a little more bite in that part of the investigation of these meth crimes,” Suben said.
Suben said the police will continue to do their jobs and would not comment on the specifics of how they would be enforcing the law.
“Good police work involves a lot of shoe leather and telephone time. Good police work will not change in its basic nature,” he said.
Lt. Troy Boice, of the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department, said the law gives officers another tool to try to curb the activity of making methamphetamine.
Police will continue to check logbooks at area pharmacies monthly, said Boice. Although there is no one central database that pharmacies share, people must provide identification when they buy Sudafed and these names can be cross checked between pharmacies.
Boice acknowledged that those making methamphetamine might pay people to buy them Sudafed with their IDs, but he said at least the law is a step in the right direction.
“It’s not going to stop anyone who wants to make meth and get Sudafed, but it may slow it down somewhat,” Boice said.
Lt. Todd Caufield who oversees the Cortland County Drug Task Force, also hails the law as an extra tool for local law enforcement to use to prosecute the manufacture of methamphetamine.
“It allows us to be able to do something more easily as opposed to federal prosecution,” said Caufield. “A local DA’s office can prosecute it as opposed to federal prosecutors. It just makes it easier and faster for us to do something.”
Caufield stressed that pharmacies have been very responsive and the law is not meant at all to target pharmacies for their sale of the product.
“It’s the smurfing of the local folks that are doing this to support their habits,” Caufield said.
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