February 20, 2006
By GREGORY SEAY, Courant Staff Writer
Connecticut is moving quickly to shove
certain cold medicines, which contain ingredients for making methamphetamine,
behind the pharmacy counter and hand out longer prison stretches
to people who make or sell the highly addictive drug.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell is expected to announce
as early as today that she is following through on her earlier pledge
and has teamed with state lawmakers to toughen laws concerning meth.
Since Connecticut's first two known
meth labs were raided June 8, 2005, in East Hampton, public awareness
of meth's social, public safety and environmental consequences and
calls to stem its rise have mushroomed.
Rell's announcement also comes as Gary
J. Messier, a 30-year-old East Hampton man arrested with his girlfriend
and a second man in the June raid, prepares to be sentenced Thursday
in New Haven federal court.
Messier pleaded guilty in November
to possessing pseudoephedrine, one of the illicit drug's active
ingredients, with intent to manufacture meth. He faces a maximum
20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
"The changes I am proposing will
move us forward in the fight against meth," Rell said. "We
need to get tougher laws on our books this year to send the message
that the sale or possession of this drug will land you in jail."
In a bill (HB 5029) before the judiciary
committee in the General Assembly, Rell proposes to classify pseudoephedrine
and another active ingredient, ephedrine, as controlled substances.
Both ingredients are found in certain
over-the-counter cold remedies. This measure would make it necessary
to obtain them by prescription.
The governor also wants stiffer penalties
for selling or producing meth.
The penalty for a first offense would
be up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $50,000. Conviction
for a second offense would carry a jail term of up to 30 years and/or
a maximum $100,000 fine. Subsequent offenses would trigger an automatic
30-year prison term and/or a maximum $250,000 fine.
If Rell has her way, possessing equipment
to make meth would become a Class D felony, with five years in prison
and/or a fine up to $5,000. Possessing the gear is now a Class A
misdemeanor, punishable by a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.
In addition, a conviction for operating
a meth factory would tack on an extra five years behind bars and
an additional fine of up to $5,000.
The legislative effort builds on steps
Rell has ordered in the last eight months to prevent meth from affecting
Connecticut as it has the West and Midwest.
All her legislative proposals for confronting
meth were recommended in an 11-page report last December from a
blue-ribbon panel of law enforcement, public health and addiction
The state Department of Public Safety
on Feb. 1 launched a centralized reporting system for collecting
data on meth and sharing it with the federal drug authorities to
better coordinate law enforcement's response once the sale or production
of meth is uncovered.
Meth affects the central nervous system,
causing increased activity, decreased appetite and a general sense
Production involves common household
chemicals and products, such as lye, matches and batteries, to strip
pseudoephedrine from cold medicine and concentrate it into crystals
that can be smoked, snorted, eaten or dissolved in water and injected.
The toxic byproduct is usually dumped
into sinks and toilets, or tossed onto the ground, where it can
be exposed to humans or animals. The waste can also leach easily
into nearby streams or groundwater.
Meth "cooking" also exposes
the manufacturers and their neighbors to the threat of fire or explosion.
Meth addicts seeking treatment can
call the state's 2-1-1 information line for help.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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