A rally to show support for legislation aimed at reducing the availability of methamphetamine across Kentucky will be held in Frankfort on Thursday, February 3. The event will begin at 2:30 p.m. in the Capitol Rotunda.

All participants are asked to arrive no later than 2 p.m. For the day’s agenda and driving directions click here.

At issue is whether to enact stricter requirements for the sale of pseudoephedrine-containing medications.

Senate Bill 45 would make pseudoephedrine a scheduled drug in Kentucky, require a prescription, limit quantities to 9 grams within a 30-day period, and prohibit refills until after the original prescription has expired.

A similar measure, House Bill 15, would require a prescription for pseudoephedrine-containing products.

For more information about the legislation click here.

The main difference, according to the Kentucky Narcotic Officers’ Association, is that a scheduled drug can be tracked using the Kentucky All-Schedule Electronic Reporting (KASPER) system and law enforcement officers would be able to bring illegal possession and/or trafficking charges.

HB-15 was pre-filed for the 2011 session by Rep. Linda Belcher (D-49th) and is co-sponsored by Mike Marzian (D-34th). Belcher is expected to amend her bill to mirror the provisions of SB-45.

Senate Bill 45 has drawn bi-partisan support from senators representing about half of the counties in southern and eastern Kentucky since being introduced by Sen. Tom Jensen (R-21st) on January 4. Co-sponsors of the legislation include senators Jared K. Carpenter (R-34th), Ray S. Jones (D-31st) and Brandon Smith (R-30th).

Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo (D-95th) has indicated he will support the effort to schedule pseudoephedrine.

“Substance abuse is a non-partisan issue that impacts every family in every community,” said Karen Kelly, director of Operation UNITE (Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education). “This legislation is aimed at curtailing the widespread methamphetamine epidemic by requiring a doctor’s prescription for medications containing the main ingredient needed for its production and giving our police officers extra enforcement tools.”

“No single action will put an end to the drug problem,” Kelly concluded. “But, when you can identify a specific contributing cause, it is essential to take expedient action to eliminate that cause.”

UNITE anti-drug efforts include a network of 30 community coalitions serving the 29-county Fifth Congressional District.

“We’re asking each of our coalitions to organize groups and caravan to Frankfort to show a unified front on this issue,” Kelly said, noting that “in the past, citizens have been effective in getting anti-drug legislation adopted when they’ve let their voices be heard.”

For those unable attend the rally, Kelly encouraged them to contact both your state Senator and Representative using the Legislative Message Line – 1-800-372-7181. “If they are already supportive of the bill, then leave a message to thank them for their position.”

Only two other states have made pseudoephedrine a scheduled drug – Oregon in 2006 and Mississippi in 2010. Both states reported decreases in the number of methamphetamine labs within months of their laws taking effect. In Oregon the number of lab seizures dropped 97.3 percent from 2004-2010, and Mississippi has seen a 68 percent reduction in just six months.

By contrast, Kentucky’s meth lab seizures increased 48 percent in the past year (from 741 labs to approximately 1,100) and was rated third in the nation for labs dismantled by law enforcement.

A study by the Kentucky State Police using pseudoephedrine sales data from 2009 concluded that approximately 77 percent of these sales were diverted to methamphetamine production.

The toll taken by methamphetamine is staggering.

According to information from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the average lifespan of a meth user is seven years and a meth producer five years.

“This does not take into account the collateral damage done by meth to the children living in the homes and the danger to the community and law enforcement,” according to Tommy Loving, executive director of the Kentucky Narcotic Officers’ Association.

A second impact is felt in the wallets of taxpayers.

“The cost of dismantling meth labs and the incarceration of those charged with meth-related offenses is an enormous economic drain on the commonwealth of Kentucky,” Loving said, adding the annual cost to be about $48 million.

In 2005, UNITE coalitions rallied 2,000 people in Frankfort to support of SB-63. The bill, passed unanimously, required pseudoephedrine to be sold only at pharmacies, set a 9-gram limit for a 30-day period, made it easier to prosecute for methamphetamine production, toughened penalties when a child was present, and required participation in the KASPER drug-tracking system.

From 2005-07, UNITE conducted a pilot project for MethCheck – an electronic reporting system designed to catch individuals who sought to obtain pseudoephedrine from multiple pharmacies and in different counties, a practice known as “smurfing.” The results of the pilot project were so successful that this system was adopted statewide.

“Despite the early results and promise of success, MethCheck has not lived up to expectations and has not prevented smurfing,” Kelly said. “As a result, UNITE no longer supports use of this system.”

“Last year meth labs were discovered in two-thirds of Kentucky’s counties. Lives are being lost and innocent children are being placed in harm’s way,” Kelly stated. “By adopting SB-45 to schedule pseudoephedrine lawmakers have a tool that will greatly reduce the instances of meth labs across the commonwealth.”

The measure has the endorsement of the Kentucky Education Association, Kentucky Medical Association, Kentucky State Police, Kentucky Academy of Family Physicians, Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police, Kentucky Jailer’s Association and Appalachia HIDTA Drug Task Force.