Just as law enforcement officers are starting to see a drop in clandestine meth labs, Franklin County and other parts of Missouri are being “flooded” with imported crystal meth smuggled in from Mexican “super labs.”

Franklin County narcotics investigators have been recording a slow, but steady, reduction in the number of local people making small batches of homemade meth, according to Detective Cpl. Scott Briggs with the Franklin County Narcotics Enforcement Unit.

In a recent 75-day period, the task force seized only two one-pot meth labs, Briggs said. “We’re not seeing as many as before.”

That’s mainly due to the grassroots effort over the last four years to pass local laws requiring prescriptions to purchase allergy and cold medications containing pseudoephedrine, the vital ingredient needed to make meth.

“The Mexicans decided to come in and flood the market when we started controlling pseudoephedrine,” Briggs said.

“The Mexican cartels have gone back to the old method (of meth-making) which doesn’t use pseudoephedrine,” said Detective Sgt. Jason Grellner, narcotics unit commander.

Users typically preferred meth made with pseudoephedrine because it packed a stronger “hit,” Grellner said. However, the crystal meth that authorities are seeing now is stronger and purer than before.

“The cartels have come up with a way to make very good crystal meth without using pseudoephedrine,” Grellner said.

“It can’t be replicated in the U.S.,” Grellner explained, because the chemicals used in the process are tightly regulated here.

“They (cartels) are flooding the southwest border with crystal meth as well as heroin,” he said.

K.C. Hub

Those illegal drug shipments are being funneled from border states to the Kansas City area and from there they are going to other points throughout the Midwest, Grellner said.

“Although the number of labs here is dwindling, we’re seeing large amounts of crystal meth coming in from Kansas City,” he remarked.

“We are working closely with out counterparts in Jackson County to investigate this,” Grellner said.

“We have networks of people here who make regular trips to K.C. to pick up crystal,” Briggs said. Those people make weekly trips and sometimes go every other day, he added.

An ounce of crystal meth sells for $1,500 to $1,700, Briggs said. But on the street it sells for $100 a gram, so a low-level dealer can make $2,800 from that ounce, he explained.

People also are getting the drugs sent through the mail and shipping services, Briggs said.

Hard to Investigate

Because meth cooks had to purchase pseudoephedrine in order to make the drug, it was easier to track suspects.

“With the imported crystal meth, we can’t just jump on the database and find out who has been buying cold pills,” Briggs said.

Also, the task force often received information about working meth labs from residents and law enforcement because of the strong odors emitted during the cooking process.

It’s more difficult to investigate suspects dealing and using crystal meth, Briggs said.

“It’s requiring more long-term investigations,” he said.

With small, local labs, task force officers could go to a home to speak with a suspect and if they smelled any suspicious odors they had probable cause to search the residence, Briggs said.

With crystal meth, if the homeowner won’t allow officers inside they have no probable cause to get a search warrant, he noted.

Briggs said citizens can help by taking note if they see an unusual amount of traffic at a home, with people coming and going, and contact the task force at 636-239-9700.