Anderson gets local backing to help fight meth manufacturing

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 17, 2003

When freshman State Rep. Jeff Anderson, R-Austin, introduced his methamphetamine precursor legislation, he had help.

Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi and Mower County Attorney Patrick W. Flanagan both had input on the new legislation.

So did an Assistant Minnesota Attorney General.

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And, why not? Both the county sheriff and attorney, as well as the Attorney General's office, are among those in the criminal justice system who have been stymied by the situation, involving ingredients to mix the drug.

"We catch people with the precursors to make methamphetamine in their possession," Flanagan said. "They have the ephedrine, coffee filters, lithium batteries and all the other stuff they need and enough of it to make the drug, but we can't charge them.

"It's really frustrating to law enforcement."

That could change if a bill proposed by Anderson becomes law.

Anderson's bill would make it a felony to possess "precursors," or the ingredients needed to manufacture methamphetamine.

"Too often police come upon situations where all the ingredients and chemicals needed to make methamphetamine are apparent, but since no crime has been committed, there was little they could do. My bill says that if it looks like a meth lab and it has the components of a meth lab, then you're guilty of an attempt to manufacture a controlled substance," Anderson said.

The legislation would make it a felony crime in the first degree, but would carry half the sentence of the actual crime to manufacture methamphetamine.

Both the sheriff and the attorney advised Anderson of the need for a law, affecting the people who possess the ingredients to make the drug.

The crime-fighting pair also had help from Assistant Minnesota Attorney General Timothy Rank.

When the trio of Amazi, Flanagan and Rank all counseled the state representative about the situation, Anderson was an instant believer and scripted the legislation.

"I think it's great and I hope it becomes law," said Flanagan. "This gives us another badly needed tool to fight this crime."

Precursors present,

but no charges filed

Amazi has sought other tools to deal with the methamphetamine menace for a long time.

"It's been discussed often," Amazi said. "We've talked about it at our regular meetings with the county attorney, police chief and the Parents United Group and others."

Mickey Jorgenson, Austin 1st Ward council member, was an early supporter of an another proposal by Amazi to have the cold remedy ephedrine locked up behind counters. The cold remedy is one of the ingredients used to manufacture methamphetamine.

"The Austin city attorney told her pharmacies and grocery stores couldn't be forced to do that," Amazi said.

Although the effort to secure the cold remedy failed, the business community has rallied to help law enforcement n another way.

Law enforcement agencies still receive "excellent cooperation" from store owners and employees, who report the purchases of large quantities of the cold remedy, white gas, coffee filters, lithium batteries and other items used to make methamphetamine.

Minnesota also has the so-called anhydrous ammonia law, which prohibits the sale and transport for other than agricultural purposes.

"However," Amazi lamented, "we don't have a precursor law and this is something we need."

When Anderson was elected last November, Amazi and Flanagan went to the new state representative with their proposal to have Anderson introduce new legislation to make it a felony crime to possess the ingredients for the drug. Anderson went to the Minnesota Attorney General's office for more information and Rank supplied it.

The legislator's staff then went to work writing the proposed bill and already it is receiving both Republican and DFL support.

Iowa already has a methamphetamine precursor law and Anderson's bill is modeled after it.

Amazi estimates there have been "at least six" instances where local law enforcement investigators have come across the ingredients to manufacture methamphetamine. The individuals possessing the ingredients could not be prosecuted for simple possession of the common household items.

They were left to their own devices and the cat-and-mouse game continued with another methamphetamine lab springing up at still another location.

"It's really frustrating. We have to let them go even though they have all the ingredients to make the stuff," Amazi said.

If Anderson's proposed bill is passed and signed into law, it could

go into effect as soon as Aug. 1.

"This is another tool we need," Amazi said.

Lee Bonorden can be contacted at 434-2232 or by e-mail at