Louisville’s Got a New Growth Industry: Meth Labs

(above photo of a Louisville Metro Police meth-lab team member from the Courier-Journal.)

We’re nine months into 2008, and the Courier-Journal reports this morning that Louisville Metro Police has discovered 67 meth labs so far — one less than the total number for 2007:

Methamphetamine labs are turning up in Jefferson and Bullitt counties at a record pace, despite tougher over-the-counter, pill-purchasing laws designed to make it more difficult to manufacture the drug.

So far this year, Louisville Metro Police have discovered 67 meth labs in Jefferson County, one less than in all of 2007, according to department records.

Fifteen labs were found last month alone, including two that exploded. A man died of burns from one of the blasts.

…Since laws regulating pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in methamphetamine, went into effect in 2005, the number of meth labs discovered in Kentucky has dropped by almost half, from 589 in 2005 to 309 last year.

But those numbers may be rising again — more than 150 meth labs have been discovered in the state through April 8 of this year, said Van Ingram with the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy.

Authorities attribute part of the increase to public education, which has made neighbors more aware that the illegal labs exist, and more eager to alert police.

But authorities acknowledge the rising numbers also illustrate how meth makers have been able to exploit weaknesses in laws in Kentucky and Indiana that are designed to limit the purchase of over-the-counter cold and sinus drugs — a source of pseudoephedrine.

…Roughly 95 percent to 98 percent of the labs being discovered are small, “one-pot” operations, rather than large distributors, said Stan Salyards of the Louisville Metro Police narcotics unit.

Those one-pot operations are little more than a single 2-liter soda bottle or plastic container that is used to combine the drug’s basic ingredients.

The setups are portable, making it possible for some “cooks” to make meth in vehicles. Some even set up a lab along the side of an isolated road and return for it later, Salyards said.

Typically, people cooking meth are both using the drug and selling or trading it to turn a small profit.

Often a meth cook will have other people, called smurfers, go to pharmacies to purchase pseudoephedrine, Salyards said. By having several people go to different locations, the sales are harder to track to a single buyer, he said.
Although metro police have found meth labs throughout Jefferson County, they are more concentrated in central and southern areas.

Aside from, y’know, the shitty feeling one might get from using meth (don’t ask us, we’ve just heard it’s no fun), meth production can potentially be hazardous to not only meth cookers, but innocent bystanders as well:

On Aug. 14, a lab sparked an explosion in an apartment at 209 York St. No one was burned, but two police officers went to the hospital complaining of burning in their chests and eyes.

Louisville’s first meth-production death was Aug. 20. Joseph Lewis, 29, of East Bernstadt, Ky., died from burns he sustained the day before when a meth lab exploded while he was cooking the drug in an Okolona apartment.

Franda Back of Shepherdsville understands the dangers well.

On July 30, she was hospitalized after a meth lab was discovered in her apartment building. Back said the hallway filled with a toxic-smelling haze, aggravating her asthma and making it difficult for her to breathe.

“The fumes were just so thick that you started gagging when you walked into the hallway,” Back said. “It was very scary.”

Yeesh.

UPDATE, 10:00 AM: In sorta-related-but-not-really news, the Jeffersontown City Council voted unanimously last night to approve drug testing for all city employees (also from the C-J). The measure comes as a result of last week’s arrest of Jeffersontown Public Works Director Joseph McMillan III after he was discovered with crack cocaine in his Fern Creek home.

The always-excellent blog The Ville Voice has more on how the J’town City Council used last night’s meeting to express their displeasure with Mayor Clay Foreman and his hiring of McMillan.

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3 Responses to “Louisville’s Got a New Growth Industry: Meth Labs”

  1. Meth Labs: Boo

    You: Yay, you’re back from hiatus

  2. stateofthecommonwealth Says:

    Definitely back, though it’s not clear yet how often I’ll be posting. Just started a new job yesterday!

  3. I think there was an article in Rolling Stone about how the big pharma companies forced the US and Canada’s hand on regulation of pseudoephedrine back when it was just a biker problem. Now it’s an epidemic. Thanks, corporations.

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