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?Meth law' gives law enforcement new tool

By Ed Brock

As a law enforcer and a lawmaker, Victor Hill was doubly pleased to see Gov. Sonny Perdue sign into effect a new law aimed at curbing methamphetamine production.

Hill, a Democratic state Representative from Riverdale and a Clayton County police detective, spoke in favor of Senate Bill 205 that, among other things, will stiffen the penalty for stealing anhydrous ammonia, a prime ingredient in making methamphetamine.

"It's going to be a great bill and a great day in law enforcement," Hill said shortly before Perdue signed the bill at Georgia Bureau of Investigations headquarters in Decatur. "Drugs are a non-partisan issue. It affects everyone, Republican and Democrat ? and I'm glad to see everybody coming together to make this happen."

Also present for the signing of the new law were Hill's boss, Clayton County Chief of Police Darrell Partain and other chiefs from municipalities within the county.

Partain also praised the new law.

"It was also to our advantage to have a law enforcement officer from the county to sit in on the process and help push it through," Partain said.

The new law is important "not only from the standpoint of public safety but for officer safety," Forest Park Police Chief Dwayne Hobbs said. Officers should be educated on what to do when they find a meth lab since several dangerous chemicals are used in the production of the drug.

Anhydrous ammonia, often used in commercial refrigeration or in making blueprints, is one of those dangerous chemicals.

Drug makers frequently steal the ammonia and mix it with other common chemicals like starter fluid, paint thinner and cold medicine to make the drug also known as speed, ice or crank. The chemicals used in making the drug can cause an explosion if mishandled during the process or while emergency workers are cleaning up the meth lab.

The law also makes it a crime for someone to buy anhydrous ammonia with the intent of making controlled substances.

Also, with several exceptions the law makes it illegal to possess a product containing ephedrine, pseudoephedrine or phenylpropanolamine above a certain amount without a license. Some of those exceptions were for pediatric products and Perdue said that the people of Georgia did not have to worry about police breaking down their doors to look for cold medicine.

"There's not going to be any illegal search and seizure, the court system will take care of that," Perdue said. "(Law enforcement agents) are human beings and they're trained to make good judgments."

The new law will be a new tool for law enforcement and allow them greater latitude in taking action to stop methamphetimine production in situations in which they were previously unable to act, Perdue said.

Perdue also told reporters about his experience with a staff member whose son used methamphetimine.

"I learned first hand how addictive this could be and how destructive it is to the family," Perdue said.