The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

May 12, 2013

W.Va. meth lab seizures on the rise in 2013


The Associated Press

CHARLESTON — West Virginia law enforcement officials are seizing methamphetamine labs at a record pace in 2013.

They have seized 200 meth labs to date, nearly approaching the 288 they shuttered in all of last year.

The Charleston Gazette says law enforcement is on a pace to seize about 570 labs this year, despite a new law intended to slow the proliferation of meth labs.

“It’s a true public health emergency, and the problem now appears to be more widespread across the state,” said Dan Foster, a former state senator who sponsored legislation designed to crack down on the clandestine labs.

The size of meth labs has gotten smaller as the number of busts has spiked.

Mike Goff, a state Board of Pharmacy administrator and former State Police trooper, described the new labs as “shake and bake” or “one-pot” operations.

“You used to have one guy cooking for 20 people,” he said. “Now 10 of those people are cooking it for themselves.”

Still, the smaller meth-making operations are just as toxic as larger, traditional labs, Goff said.

Operators are using soda pop bottles to manufacture methamphetamine.

“With the plastic bottles, they’re more of a fire hazard,” Goff said. “It’s a much simpler and quick process, but it’s equally dangerous.”

State lawmakers passed Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s substance-abuse bill in 2012. It included a provision that requires statewide electronic tracking of pseudoephedrine, a cold and allergy medication that’s also a key meth-making ingredient.

The new law also limits the purchase of pseudoephedrine, commonly sold under the name Sudafed, to three boxes per month and 20 per year.

Despite the tracking system, pseudoephedrine sales remain high.

West Virginians have purchased about 40,000 boxes per month of the sinus medication so far this year, according to data from the state pharmacy board.