There's good news and bad news regarding the United States' battle against methamphetamine. The good news is an overall decline in the number of small meth labs around the country, and the bad news is an increase in reports of methamphetamine being imported into the U.S., primarily from Mexico.
New laws, like the one passed a year or two ago in Missouri, have been very effective in slowing down the growth of "mom and pop" operations. These laws restrict the sale of ephedrine, a key ingredient used to manufacture meth. This is a law we endorsed and were thrilled when Missouri legislators got it passed. As a result, the number of meth labs discovered in Barry County has dramatically decreased. Our county no longer leads the state in meth lab busts, a distinction we're happy to lose.
Nationwide, there was a 58 percent drop in the number of meth labs seized in 2006, according to figures released by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). In all, local police and U.S. agents seized only 7,347 labs as compared to 17,356 in 2003. The DEA credits tougher state and federal laws aimed at restricting the sale of ephedrine and other chemicals used to manufacture meth.
The drug business is not a whole lot different than legitimate business. If there is a demand, someone will create a means to supply it. In the case of methamphetamine, its highly addictive qualities ensure that addicts will continue to crave the drug and the suppliers have changed from small meth lab cooks to larger criminal drug suppliers who operate, for the most part, outside of the United States. Imported methamphetamine is already a part of the local drug scene.
We are grateful for the efforts of our area law enforcement officers who continue to fight the battle against illegal drugs. The dwindling number of meth labs can also be credited to increased efforts by officers to target the problem.
Barry County should not become complacent just because statistics point to a downward trend in the category of meth lab seizures. We should remain diligent in fighting the war on drugs and continue to provide our law enforcement officers with the weapons and resources they need to adequately wage this important war.