Meth Lab Busts Statewide on the Increase

By Beacon Staff

BILLINGS – Law enforcement authorities have busted three times as many meth labs in Montana this year as in 2008, and believe it’s because meth cooks have figured out a way to skirt the state law that restricts the purchase of medicines containing pseudoephedrine.

The Department of Justice says 15 meth labs have been shut down in the state so far this year, compared to five in 2008.

Mike Batista, director of the state’s Division of Criminal Investigation, says the drug is commanding higher prices and meth makers have turned to “smurfing,” recruiting groups of people to buy medicines containing pseudoephedrine.

In 2005, the Montana Legislature put medicines containing pseudoephedrine behind the counter, setting caps on purchase amounts and requiring purchasers to provide identification and sign for the medicine.

An increase in the number of “smurfing” rings has led several states to consider more stringent regulations on drugs containing pseudoephedrine, including setting up statewide databases to record purchases.

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