We have a serious methamphetamine addiction problem in Kentucky.
I wanted to state that loudly, clearly and early because it appears a lot of folks aren't aware of that.
Surely that is why legislators have chosen to ignore pleas from law enforcement officials, medical societies, pharmacists, jailers and ordinary citizens who want to make pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in the manufacturing of methamphetamine, available only by prescription.
By putting more restrictions on access to pseudoephedrine, the number of dangerous meth labs would decrease. The amount of money needed to clean up those hazardous labs would decrease. And the number of children innocently living in homes where meth is cooked would decrease.
We know this because that is what has happened in Oregon and Mississippi when those states made pseudoephedrine available only by prescription, as well as in 30 townships and counties in Missouri that further regulated pseudoephedrine.
It also wouldn't be a major inconvenience, as law enforcement officials say family doctors can call in the prescription without a patient visit and also make it refillable for six months. Only 15 products would be affected by the prescription requirement. There are another 100 or so medications that don't contain pseudoephedrine that can bring us the relief we seek.
With the results that further regulation can bring, our reason to cling to an electronic tracking law for that drug has to be because neither our legislators nor we voters understand how serious meth is in Kentucky.
Bills in the state House and Senate to restrict access to pseudoephedrine don't seem to have a chance of passing this session of the General Assembly. And that is despite the backing of U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Republican Senate President David Williams.
Sgt. Stanley Salyards, of Louisville police and past president of the Kentucky Narcotics Officers' Association, said advocates will try again next year. After all, the problem doesn't seem to be going away.
Last year, Salyards said slightly more than a thousand meth labs were found in Kentucky. That's up from 741 uncovered the year before that.
Both Mississippi and Oregon have seen the number of meth labs in their states decrease by more than 50 percent.
And while Kentucky had electronic tracking of those who purchase pseudoephedrine found in cold medications, Salyards said addicts and dealers can get around that by sending several people to purchase the products containing the chemical, being careful not to top the legal limits allowed per month.
Just recently, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration has run out of funds that were used by law enforcement departments to clean up meth labs that were uncovered. That means local enforcement agencies are now on their own.
Salyards said it costs between $800 and $1,200 to clean up the hazardous materials found in a meth lab. He said some $2.2 million was spent last year in Kentucky alone.
It only takes about 45 minutes to make meth. And what is worse is that the hazardous labs, containing fertilizer, battery acid and drain cleaner, are much smaller now, some contained in plastic bottles called one-pot labs. The volatile mixture could be cooking in the car next to you at a stoplight or in the backpack of a person walking nearby, he said. Once the meth is made, the container can be chucked, endangering the life of anyone who might pick it up.
Det. Byron Smoot of Lexington police and vice president of KNOA, said Lexington's meth problem isn't as great as the one found in Louisville and Eastern Kentucky. Drug users here are more interested in cocaine, marijuana and pills, he said.
But we do contribute to the meth problem by having nearly 100 pharmacies here where "smurfs," or stooges, are sent to purchase cold medicines, he said.
"Lexington has become to pseudoephedrine what Florida is to oxycodone," Smoot said. "They come here to buy it and then go and make it. We are a source city."
While Lexington is a source of the drug but has few discovered meth labs, Louisville is both a source and a hotbed for labs.
Salyards said Louisville has nearly 200 pharmacies, which has allowed the city to have the largest number of labs — 154 last year — uncovered in the state for several years in a row. Any county bordering Jefferson County has fewer than 10 pharmacies each, he said.
Missouri leads the nation in meth lab busts and seizures, followed by Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi and Michigan.
So how can we escape the top five? Ask yourself what's more important.
Inconvenience versus destroyed lives?
A phone call versus contaminated children?
Someone's "right" to pick up a product without a prescription versus the common good?
If it is a lack of understanding about the meth problem we face in Kentucky, I hope I have helped to inform you.
The only other possible reason to shelve such a beneficial law would be that we just don't care.
If we voters get started now, we can change that next year.