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New 'meth' law takes drugs off shelf

By Ed Brock

Christian's Pharmacy in Forest Park has no problem complying with the new state law that puts some over the counter cold medicines behind the counter.

The purpose of the new law is to keep any nonprescription medicines containing ephedrine, pseudoephedrine or phenylpropanolamine out of the hands of those who would use them to illegally make the drug methamphetamine. Christian's put their cold products that meet the requirement, such as Sudafed, behind the counter on Friday when the law took effect, said Blake Daniel, the store's pharmacist in charge.

It hasn't been any less convenient, Daniel said.

"Most people ask for a recommendation anyway," Daniel said. "Whether you grab them off the counter or have to go up front, it doesn't matter."

Wal-Mart customer Ifrais Threatt of Morrow said she's willing to sacrifice her convenience for the sake of the new law.

"If it's going to make a difference with methamphetamine, it's good," Threatt said.

The law also states that a person can't purchase more than three packages of those products at a time. Some exceptions to the law are pediatric products for children 12 years and younger and a product that has been certified by the Georgia Board of Pharmacy to be formulated in such a way that it cannot be used to make meth.

"This is an excellent law," Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill said. "It's easier for people to shoplift these drugs if they're out on the shelf."

Clayton County police and sheriff's deputies have busted several "meth labs" in Clayton County in recent years, Clayton County Police Maj. Tim Robinson said.

"I know that in a lot if not a majority of the drug cases we do find some meth," Robinson said.

In neighboring Henry County law enforcement officers are also happy to see the new law.

Regardless of what customer complaints may surface from those who have a valid need for the medicines, Henry County Public Safety director Mike Turner believes the law will help provide an inconvenience for those who don't.

"It's going to help tremendously in cutting down the legal method of getting their hands on pseudoephedrine, because one of the things that happens, is that they go shopping from store to store to get these products," Turner said.

Turner said the law helps bring attention to the people who try to buy more than the allowable amount.

"They have to engage in conversation with someone to buy it," Turner said. "It gives people (behind the counter) an opportunity to pay attention to who's buying it, particularly in large quantities."

Lt. Scott Ryals with the Flint Circuit Drug Task Force agrees with Turner, and said the new law is long overdue.

"Flags should be going up if somebody goes in and buys five boxes of cold pills," Ryals said.

The Flint Circuit Drug Task Force's jurisdiction includes the cities of McDonough, Hampton and Locust Grove.

The law enforcement agents also agreed that there "definitely" is a methamphetamine problem in Henry County.

"Oh yes, methamphetamine is one of the biggest drugs in Henry County," Ryals said. "We seize more methamphetamine in Henry County than any other drug."

Ryals estimates that since September 2004, the drug task force has busted five or six methamphetamine labs.

"Meth labs are not really a huge thing," Ryals explained. "You can set up a meth lab in a small cooler (or) you can break it all down and put them in a gym bag."

Ryals said the drug task force has come across methamphetamine addicts as young as 13 or 14 years old.

Addicts who may be that young, is a reason why Locust Grove resident Shrilly Clark, who is a nurse, said she thinks the anti-methamphetamine law is a step in the right direction.

"I think it's fine because a lot of the kids are hooked and do a lot of stuff to get high," Clark said.

Jenkinsburg resident Lynn Cantrell, who was shopping with her husband at the Locust Grove Moye's Pharmacy, said she thinks "it's a shame we live in a world with people today, that you can't trust them, where your medicine can't sit out and you have to put it under lock and key."

With the law being new, Turner said time will tell just how big a difference it will make.

Staff writer Aisha Jefferson contributed to this article.