All of the pseudoephedrine used in methamphetamine labs seized in Franklin County last year came from areas that haven’t adopted prescription laws, according to the county’s chief narcotics officer.
Pseudoephedrine, found in certain cold and allergy medications, is the vital ingredient needed to make meth.
“All of our labs investigated in 2012 involved pseudoephedrine that came out of St. Louis County, St. Louis City, or Rolla (Phelps County),” said Detective Sgt. Jason Grellner, head of the Franklin County Narcotics Enforcement Unit.
Those areas don’t have pseudoephedrine prescription laws.
About three years ago, Grellner spearheaded the move to get cities and counties to require prescriptions to buy medicine containing pseudoephedrine after the state Legislature repeatedly failed to pass a statewide measure.
Since then more than 70 cities and counties around the state now have prescription laws making it more difficult for meth cooks to get the component they need to make meth.
That has led meth cooks and traffickers to those areas without laws in place. In some instances, criminals pay people off the street to buy cold pills and then they turn around and sell them, for a profit, to meth cooks, Grellner said.
“None of the pseudoephedrine we’re seeing is coming out of any area where they have adopted prescription laws,” Grellner remarked.
Even with the local prescription law in Franklin County, the number of meth lab incidents rose slightly last year to 102.
That is up from the 97 meth labs investigated in 2011, but down from 106 in 2010.
Statewide, the Missouri Highway Patrol reported a total of 1,960 meth labs investigated in 2012, the lowest in the last three years.
There were 2,096 labs reported in 2011 and 1,985 in 2010, according to the latest statistics released this month.
Police agencies in Missouri classify meth lab incidents into three categories: operational/nonoperational labs, chemical/glassware/equipment seizures, and lab dump sites.
All law enforcement agencies in the state are required to report the seizure of methamphetamine laboratories to the patrol which then enters Missouri’s seizures into the National Clandestine Laboratory Seizure System, which is maintained by the Drug Enforcement Administration at the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) in El Paso, Texas.
Grellner said the southeastern part of Missouri has seen a dramatic decrease in the number of meth labs since passing prescription laws.
That area has seen about a 60 percent drop in meth labs as a result, he explained.
For example, Cape Girardeau County went from 66 labs in 2010 to 28 last year. Nearby Scott County saw an even bigger drop in labs, from 64 in 2010 to 19 in 2012.
Some areas in that part of the state have dropped to zero labs, Grellner said.
Helping that situation is the fact that pharmacies in Arkansas and some in Illinois and Tennessee won’t sell pseudoephedrine cold pills to Missouri residents, Grellner said.
“It’s quite obvious this (prescription law) is the way to go,” he remarked.
St. Louis and Phelps counties and the city of St. Louis all have seen a rise in meth labs in recent years.
For example, in St. Louis City, there were four lab incidents reported in 2010. That number swelled to 41 in 2012.
St. Louis County saw meth labs increase from 74 in 2010 to 93 in 2011 and 130 last year, Grellner pointed out.
In Phelps County, lab incidents jumped from 35 to 48 from 2010 to 2012.
No. 1 County
Jefferson County again set the record for most meth lab incidents reported in one year. The number of labs jumped dramatically there from 253 in 2011 to 346.
Franklin County came in fourth for the most labs behind St. Charles County (156) and St. Louis County (130).
Here are the year-by-year lab totals reported in Missouri since 2007:
• 2007, 1,285;
• 2008, 1,487;
• 2009, 1,774;
• 2010, 1,960; and
• 2011, 2,096.
Lab numbers in other recent years for Franklin County were:
• 2006, 69;
• 2007, 50;
• 2008, 70; and
• 2009, 96.