Taking Meth War to New Level

Coalition formed to help educate public; log a concern

FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- A coalition of state agencies, law enforcement groups and business and trade associations will help coordinate Indiana's fight to curb the production and use of methamphetamine, said the Associated Press.

Governor Mitch Daniels announced formation of the Meth Free Indiana Coalition in Fort Wayne on Thursday, the day before a new state law taking aim at curbing the addictive drug's production took effect.

The coalition will be overseen by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. The group will soon begin a program [image-nocss] to help retailers comply with the law and to educate the public.

The institute recently sent information packets about the new law to more than 5,000 retailers across the state, including convenience stores, grocery stores, drug stores and others. It includes instructions on how to implement the law, state-approved log sheets and a list of more than 700 products affected by the law.

Stores without pharmacies will be required to keep medicines containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrinekey ingredients in methin a locked case or behind a counter. Those with pharmacies can have the drugs within sight of a pharmacy employee, if the store has 24-hour video surveillance.

Customers will be limited to 3 gramsabout 100 tabletsof the medicines per week, will have to show a state or federal ID and sign a logbook to buy the drugs.

In total, the materials could cost the state as much as $150,000, said Heather Bolejack, executive director of the institute, but that could change, depending on how many items are developed and printed. The institute is using money from the State Drug Free Communities Fund, which comes from local court fees, added a report by The Courier-Journal.

The log, however, has been a source of some frustration among retailers, Joe Lackey, director of the Indiana Grocery & Convenience Store Association, told the newspaper. Stores had hoped to have it in hand sooner so they could train employees to use it. But state police did not finish the document until last week.

"It's unfortunate," Nikki Kincaid, the institute's deputy director, told the paper. "But we moved just as quickly as we could."

That gave state officials only a short time to produce the tracking log, Kincaid said. Its creation required cooperation among several agencies and approval by the attorney general's and governor's offices, she said.

But Lackey is also concerned with the log's content. State police are requiring that retailers record more information than called for by the law, including the amount of pseudoephedrine in the medicines a customer is buying. Also, customers will need to sign the log, rather than simply record their name, under the state police protocol.

Lackey said the additional requirements add to the concern that customers will be forced to wait in lines to buy commonly used, over-the-counter medications. The problem might not be evident immediately, but could become worse in the winter during the cold and flu season, he said.

But Bolejack said the final log is a compromise that incorporates concerns and suggestions from representatives of retailers, prosecutors, police and state officials. "It represents the best attempts to balance everybody's interests," she said.

The coalition includes the Indiana State Police, the Indiana Retail Council, the Indiana Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association (IPCA) and the National Guard.

Click here to view the coalition's website.