JEFFERSON CITY - An extensive anti-methamphetamine bill won preliminary approval of all the state senators present with little debate, but a couple lawmakers voiced concerns about the possible impact on law-abiding citizens.
Some lawmakers expressed reservations that the bill would expand the list of chemicals under state control to include some used in everyday life, such as iodine and hydrochloric adic.
"How do we draft a bill to address drain cleaners?" asked Sen. Marvin Singleton, R-Seneca.
Businesses would be required to report to the state sales of the chemicals covered by the bill, with some exceptions.
Although not arguing against the bill, Singleton warned that the legislation could affect gasoline additives and over-the-counter asthma medicines.
Stressing that anti-methamphetamine measures deserved bipartisan support, Singleton argued that other areas of the methamphetamine problem warranted more attention. He suggested revoking bonds for those involved in methamphetamine-related crimes, more funds for education and resources for cleaning up labs' bi-products.
Bill sponsor Harry Wiggins, D-Kansas City, emphasized the hazards of the drug.
"Methamphetamine is the most dangerous, most addictive and most explosive drug on the street today," Wiggins said.
He said that methamphetamine is easy to make and that the ingredients are so common that they can be bought at Wal-Mart.
"I want Missouri, by the end of this session, to have the strongest anti-methamphetamine law in the United States," Wiggins said.
Besides regulating the chemicals used in methamphetamine production, the measure would stiffen penalties for the manufacture and distribution of the drug. It would also make it a felony to possess chemicals with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine.
The bill would also establish drug courts, allow warrants to be issued over the telephone and make it a crime to involve minors in the production, transport or sale of the drug.
In a public hearing on an earlier version of the bill, Sen. Joe Maxwell, D-Mexico, explained that methamphetamine producers often enlist minors to steal the chemicals to manufacture the drug. Although the monetary value of the stolen chemicals may be as little as $1, Maxwell said, he wants to make it a more serious crime to use minors in the production of methamphetamine.
"We feel the harm done is tremendous," he said.
Law enforcement has also increased its focus on Missouri's methamphetamine problem. The number of methamphetamine labs seized in the state has skyrocketed in the last few years, according to the Missouri Highway Patrol. Close to 300 labs were seized in 1997, up from 121 in 1996 and 66 in 1995.
Methamphetamine has taken center stage this legislative session, with Gov. Mel Carnahan targeting it as a key issue. In his proposed fiscal year 1999 budget, Carnahan included $3.3 million in state and federal funds to fight methamphetamine production and trafficking. He highlighted the problem in his January State of the State Address, explaining that Missouri's rural nature and geographic location have made it a "meth mecca."