New law aims to curb meth use, production

Area pharmacists will begin electronically monitoring pseudoephedrine-like purchases next week in an effort to curtail methamphetamine production statewide.

As part of a new state law tabbed “Stop Methamphetamine Labs,” pharmacists in Catawba County and across the state will begin logging pseudoephedrine and other sales of products used to make meth.

Lawmakers formed the law this summer to increase the regulation of pseudoephedrine products to curtail meth production and reduce costs to local governments for meth-lab cleanup costs. It was signed into law June 23.

Now, in an open database, area pharmacists like Melinda Long will electronically log purchases of products used to make meth.

“If someone comes to my store and buys a product, we log it in, so if they go into another store down the street, it should pull up that they have already gotten some,” said Long, pharmacist at the MediCap in Newton. “That way they won’t be able to go from store to store.”

Long and MediCap previously logged purchases on paper. Now, “pill shoppers” or “doctor shoppers” will have a harder time moving from store to store to buy pseudoephedrine-containing products.

Pharmacists will submit the information to the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx), a database administered by the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI).

If the system generates a “stop alert,” then the seller would not make the sale, according to session law 2011-240.

The NADDI will also forward sales transaction records in NPLEx to the State Bureau of Investigation weekly and provide real-time access to database information, according to the law.

“It does add another task to it, but I don’t think it will be any harder than putting it in the book,” Long said. “It may help somewhat because a (stop alert) should pop right up in the screen. It’s worth a try because the meth problem is getting to be worse and worse and worse.”

In Catawba County, law enforcement officials say they are seeing an increase in meth users. Neighboring counties like Burke, Watauga and Alexander have some of the highest meth-production rates in the state.

“We are seeing more users,” said Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid. “It’s a fairly cheap drug, so a lot of people can buy it.”

Reid said authorities locate a meth lab in Catawba County from time to time. He said the most recent lab was found in a double-wide home that was unoccupied.

“We’ve found them in homes and trailers,” he said. “It’s very expensive to clean up.”

As for the new law, Reid is hopeful it will make a dent in an ongoing problem.

“It’s going to throw up a red flag and we’ll know who’s buying too much pseudoephedrine and the other products they need to make it,” he said.

“It will give us something to investigate.”

Other laws going into effect Jan. 1
Starting next week, teenage drivers in North Carolina must write down how many hours they spent practicing behind the wheel before they can get a full license.

A state law taking effect Sunday requires teens to turn in a log of their driving time before they can move up to the next level of the graduated licensing system.

The law requires teenagers with a learner's permit to have signed logs showing they drove 60 hours with an adult driver. Novice drivers will then need 12 more hours over the next six months to qualify for a full license.

Parents or guardians will have to certify the driving logs.

North Carolina doesn't require anyone 18 or older getting a driver's license for the first time to go through the graduated license program.