Update--March 15th, 2011-Local law enforcement pushing to make pseudoephedrine a prescription say the proposed HB 1235 will not be voted on the House floor. It made it out of the Public Safety committee but it didn't make today's deadline to be placed on the calendar. An epidemic worse than you may have even considered. Officials say they will work to push a similar law through the Senate.
Meth has taken up residence so bad that police nationwide dubbed Northeast Oklahoma, “America’s meth capital.”
Only on FOX23.com Abbie Alford sits down with one of the nation’s meth experts on one-pot-meth methods and an undercover officer for the Tulsa Police Department’s Special Investigations Division (SID).
He’s also an officer who is joining with other law enforcement agencies and District Attorneys to pass HB 1235 that would require a prescription to purchase pseudoephedrine in Oklahoma.
Pseudoephedrine is the ingredient inside your common cold medicine. You can’t buy it over-the-counter anymore. It’s kept behind the pharmacy counter. Even with government issued identification you can only purchase nine grams of cold medicine with pseudoephedrine in 30 days.
However, meth makers are still getting all the pseudoephedrine they need.
A trip to the store and the pharmacy, $150 later, meth makers are ready to cook.
"I could teach you how to make it in 20 minutes. It's easy," says the SID officer.
A training video shows just how volatile shake-and-bake also known as the one-pot-meth can be to makers and innocent people.
"It didn't come to Oklahoma that we can tell until about September 2008. It is an easier way to cook meth, it requires far less pseudoephedrine,” says the SID officer. (see TPD SID Meth Statistics)
Pseudoephedrine is found in some cold medicine and lawmakers put those meds behind pharmacy counters in 2004. However, meth cooks find ways around the law.
In 2003 there were 211 lab cases and last year that number rose to 323 labs. (see TPD SID Meth Statistics)
"We are definitely the meth capital of the state,” says the SID officer. "I probably get a call from someone out-of-state two or three times a week and one of the first things they always say is, 'I got your name because everybody knows that Tulsa has a bigger meth lab problem than anyone else.’ I don't think that is what we want to be known as nationwide is ’hey if you have meth lab problem call Tulsa because they'll know what to do because they deal with more than anyone else.’"
Meth cooks get so-called “smurfs” to buy cold medicine for them and are recruiting people and paying them $50 to $100 a box.
The bigger the quantity in a box, the more money to be made in the black-market meth business.
Even with a meth registry that bans felons convicted of meth crimes from purchasing pseudoephedrine, makers are able to get their hands on the ingredient.
They are recruiting people who are desperate for money selling a $15 to $20 box for $50 to $100.
"People like homeless people," says the SID officer.
Officers call them “smurfs”, meth cooks who get people to buy cold meds for them.
The officer says he’s talked to offenders who weren’t addicts until they became smurfs.
"He made money by selling boxes for a while and then he had his own home. So then they paid him to do the cooks in his garage and then the next thing you know not only is he supplying boxes but now they are cooking at his at his house and now he is using meth and he gets in trouble with everyone else," says the SID officer.
Convicted felon Demone Bell will spend 225 years in federal prison for meth crimes.
However, he was never a documented pseudo purchaser.
"He never purchased pseudoephedrine,” says the SID officer.
The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs track pseudoephedrine purchases.
In December 2007 there were 87,456 pseudoephedrine boxes purchased at stores. In December 2010, there were 148,409 boxes sold in Oklahoma. (see TPD SID Meth Statistics)
"As evidenced by all our guys they are buying it down the street they don't need to go to Arkansas or Missouri. As long as pseudoephedrine is easy, has an easier access, we are going to have cooks,” says the SID officer.
The top 17 Oklahoma cities with the highest pseudoephedrine sales at pharmacy stores are in Muskogee, Tulsa, McAlester, Broken Arrow, Sapulpa, Bartlesville, Owasso, Owasso and Pryor. (see TPD SID Meth Statistics)
A reputation police hope to shed.
"It seems like the leaders of our city are trying to say ‘we're open to business we want people to move here’ I don't think that being the meth capitol of the united states probably entices a lot of people, legitimate people,” says the SID officer.
Oregon passed a prescription-only pseudoephedrine law in 2006. The meth lab problem is down 96%.
The Oklahoma proposed prescribed pseudo law (HB1235) passed Oklahoma’s Public Safety House Committee last week. It’s now up for a vote on the House floor.
However, Oklahoma’s version excludes prescribed pseudo in gel caps or liquids.
Original Headline, "Tulsa Is Meth Capital Of Oklahoma".