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Rell Hopes To Toughen Laws On Meth

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 treatment specialists.

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 of well-being.

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. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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