Task force clarifies meth ordinance

Former Lt. Gov. Walter Bradley, right, voices concerns over a proposed ordinance involving the sale of pseudeophedrine-based drugs in the Clovis area during a meeting held Friday at City Hall to discuss the ordinance.

By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer

A task force charged with reviewing a proposed city methamphetamine ordinance on Friday hammered more clarity into the law.

The ordinance, which would put powder and hard-pill form pseudoephedrine products behind the glass at local retailers and require registration of buyers, will go before the Clovis City Commission on Aug. 18 for a vote.

Pseudoephedrine-based cold and sinus products are used in the production methamphetamine, according to law enforcement officials.

At a previous task force meeting, detractors said the ordinance would restrict the freedoms of law-abiding citizens while not doing much to hamper the clandestine production of methamphetamine.

However, at several points during Friday’s two-hour public meeting, District Attorney Matthew Chandler and other law enforcement agents called the ordinance an important tool to ridding the city of methamphetamine labs.

“We are not doing anything now but reactive approaches,” Chandler said, emphasizing the need for proactive approaches to curbing meth production.

“Our main goal is to give Curry and Roosevelt counties a chance for a meth-free future,” he said.

Police say there were seven meth lab busts in the city and county in the last year. Three of the four in the city involved the same person.

One section of the meth ordinance drew some criticism for being too open ended, however. It states that the registration forms, or logs, may be used for drug enforcement or “other lawful purposes.”

The section caught the attention of former Lt. Gov. Walter Bradley of Clovis, who felt the wording was too broad. City Commissioner Fred Van Soelen, who is also a prosecutor in the district attorney’s office, said data collected on the logs may be needed for use in criminal proceedings — for instance, to disprove a suspect’s alibi.

The task force agreed to limit the provision and only allow use of the logs for drug enforcement or “for other criminal investigations.”

Several attendees took issue with the log provision altogether, which will record who is purchasing hard-form pseudoephedrine-based drugs in the area. Among those opposed to the provision is Curry County Sheriff Roger Hatcher.

“It just seems like an infringement on the rights of the law-abiding citizen to try to get information that would otherwise be protected under the (Bill of Rights),” he said Saturday. “A big part of my oath of office (is) that I would support the Constitution of the United States, and I see this as a violation to some of those rights.”

However, Kevin Spears of the district attorney’s office said those buying cold medicine can avoid the registration process entirely by simply selecting the gel tablet form of the drugs, a point underscored Saturday by Chandler. Police say pseudoephedrine can’t be extracted from gel tablets with the same ease as the hard-form drug.

Law enforcement agents said they could use the logs to track mass purchases of pseudoephedrine products, which could help identify meth producers.

One section in the ordinance will make it illegal “for any retailer, or any employee of a retailer, to falsify, alter or modify any purchaser information …” Bradley said this part of the ordinance would unfairly penalize retailers, possibly driving up their insurance costs and causing them to stop carrying the products.

However, Clovis’ Rob Pitcock — an admitted former heavy meth user — supports the provision. He described just how virulent meth addiction is and said those buying pseudoephedrine for illegitimate use will find ways around the law if there aren’t penalties on the retailers.

“You have to have some sort of recourse for this to work,” Pitcock said.

The task force better defined the amount of pseudoephedrine-based medicine that can be purchased in a single transaction. It was clarified as three packages or 100 tablets total per transaction. Law enforcement believes 100 tablets per transaction is a sufficient amount of pseudoephedrine to fight a common cold, but an inadequate amount to manufacture methamphetamine, according to a press release from the district attorney’s office.

An annual review clause will also be added to the ordinance to monitor how effective it is on a yearly basis.

“We’ve got a big fight. Any way we look at it it’s going to be a big fight,” said Agent Robbie Telles of the Clovis Police Department.

The task force is not planning on meeting again before the ordinance is voted on in August. The same ordinance has been presented to Curry and Roosevelt counties and the city of Portales.