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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ind. Law - Two stories on Indiana meth laws

This very long story by Lisa Trigg in the Terre Haute Tribune Star, from Sept. 3rd, is headed "Wabash Valley woman didn’t realize second cold medicine purchase violated drug laws." Some quotes:

CLINTON — When Sally Harpold bought cold medicine for her family back in March, she never dreamed that four months later she would end up in handcuffs.

Now, Harpold is trying to clear her name of criminal charges, and she is speaking out in hopes that a law will change so others won’t endure the same embarrassment she still is facing.

“This is a very traumatic experience,” Harpold said.

Harpold is a grandmother of triplets who bought one box of Zyrtec-D cold medicine for her husband at a Rockville pharmacy. Less than seven days later, she bought a box of Mucinex-D cold medicine for her adult daughter at a Clinton pharmacy, thereby purchasing 3.6 grams total of pseudoephedrine in a week’s time.

Those two purchases put her in violation of Indiana law 35-48-4-14.7, which restricts the sale of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, or PSE, products to no more than 3.0 grams within any seven-day period.

When the police came knocking at the door of Harpold’s Parke County residence on July 30, she was arrested on a Vermillion County warrant for a class-C misdemeanor, which carries a sentence of up to 60 days in jail and up to a $500 fine. But through a deferral program offered by Vermillion County Prosecutor Nina Alexander, the charge could be wiped from Harpold’s record by mid-September.

Harpold’s story is one that concerns some law-abiding citizens who fear that innocent people will get mistakenly caught in the net of meth abuse roundups.

But the flip side of the story comes from the law enforcement arena, which is battling a resurgence in methamphetamine production in the Wabash Valley.

As the 12th-smallest county in the state, Vermillion County ranked as the state’s fifth-largest producer of methamphetamine just a few years ago.

“I don’t want to go there again,” Alexander told the Tribune-Star, recalling how the manufacture and abuse of methamphetamine ravaged the tiny county and its families.

While the law was written with the intent of stopping people from purchasing large quantities of drugs to make methamphetamine, the law does not say the purchase must be made with the intent to make meth.

“The law does not make this distinction,” Alexander said.

If the law said “with intent to manufacture methamphetamine,” no one could be arrested until it was proven that the drug actually was used to make meth, the prosecutor said.

And that certainly wasn’t the intent of the law, either. It was written to limit access to the key ingredient in meth — pseudoephedrine — and thereby to stop the clandestine “mom and pop” meth labs that were cooking drugs throughout the area.

Just as with any law, the public has the responsibility to know what is legal and what is not, and ignorance of the law is no excuse, the prosecutor said.

“I’m simply enforcing the law as it was written,” Alexander said. * * *

And Vigo County Sheriff Jon Marvel, who recently renewed efforts to track pseudoephedrine sales in the Wabash Valley, understands Harpold’s arrest is embarrassing for her.

“Sometimes mistakes happen,” Marvel said. “It’s unfortunate. But for the good of everyone, the law was put into effect.

“I feel for her, but if she could go to one of the area hospitals and see a baby born to a meth-addicted mother …”

This story in the Sept. 28th South Bend Tribune, reported by Virginia Ransbottom, deals with the cost of cleaning up after a meth law - something the ILB has written about before -- see this comprehensive ILB entry from July 14th. Some quotes:
PLYMOUTH — Landlords have learned that cleaning up after a meth bust could cost anywhere from $3,500 to $35,000.

With Indiana rated No. 2 in the United States for meth busts, that’s a lot of cleanup falling on property owner’s shoulders.

In 2008 alone, there were over a thousand meth busts in Indiana.

But since 2006, when the state cleanup rule on meth went into effect, only 81 decontamination certificates have been issued.

That means homes and apartments are either being abandoned, destroyed or reoccupied by unsuspecting occupants.

“The easiest thing to do is demolish the structure,” said Phillip Ball, a state-qualified decontamination inspector from Aegis Environmental.

Ball was the guest speaker at Plymouth Mayor Mark Senter’s anti-meth commission meeting. Landlords were invited to learn what to do after a meth bust.

And landlords are indeed worried.

“If I had a property involved in a meth bust, I’d just stop renting and paying taxes on it,” said Plymouth landlord Gerrard Wilson.

“What would that do for the state? Landlords need some kind of protection.”

That’s exactly what is happening, said Ball. With cleanup costs more than what the property is worth, people are walking away and abandoning properties.

“Banks end up with contaminated properties and with lists piled high of foreclosures, the properties are getting sold,” Ball said.

Although police take away the bulk of chemicals after a meth bust, what is left behind are chemical and drug residues on surfaces, sinks, drains and ventilation systems.

Failure to follow state guidelines for cleanup could result in a liability down the road, when a baby is born with birth defects caused by meth residue, Ball said.

“The long-term effects could be like asbestos was 30 years ago,” said Ball. “Exposure to asbestos caused mesothelioma and meth residue may also cause cancer, but not enough time has passed to study chronic effects.” * * *

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s rule on cleanup says qualified inspectors must be used for testing.

The law offers no recourse for property owners stuck with the bill, and enforcement of the law was left to local health departments, many of which don’t have the resources to monitor contaminated properties.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 30, 2009 07:01 AM
Posted to Indiana Law