Local law enforcement officers have seen a major drop-off in the number of operational methamphetamine labs since a House bill restricting the sale of pseudoephedrine went on the books.

The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics keeps statewide numbers of meth lab seizures, and the agency's records indicate the number of labs was small until the mid-'90s, when the illegal drug became popular in the state. Those numbers started dropping off in 2003 and continue to decline.

Three years ago, Oklahoma lawmakers were the first in the nation to pass a law restricting the sale of pseudoephedrine, a cold-medicine ingredient used to manufacture methamphetamine. A similar federal law was enacted last year that requires pharmacies to keep pseudoephedrine behind the counter and limits its purchase.

Statistics kept by the OBN shows Cherokee County had two lab seizures in 2005 and 2006, but three labs have been seized this year. Sequoyah County's total has been on a roller coaster for the past three years, from 31 in 2005 to 12 in 2006, and back up to 24 in 2007.

The same report shows Adair County, with five seizures in 2005 compared with two in 2006 and six to date this year. Wagoner County had six seizures in 2005 and 2006, but has had only one in 2007.

OBN Spokesman Mark Woodward said the numbers are for an entire year.

"Prior to H.B. 2176, many of these counties were averaging 10-25 labs a month," he said. "So you can clearly see labs have been considerably reduced."

Cherokee County Sheriff Norman Fisher said a key element when considering the numbers is that the seizure of glassware goes down as a meth lab seizure.

"We're getting some non-operational labs," Fisher said. "We still encourage people who think they know where a lab is to call us. They don't need to try to do anything with it themselves."

The narcotics bureau also estimated 90 percent of the meth labs seized since 2004 have been non-operational, which means they were either dump sites or consisted of glassware only.

Police Chief Steve Farmer's agency has also seen a drop in the number of labs since the law changed.

"In my tenure, the Tahlequah Police Department has aggressively fought the narcotics problems in the city," he said. "Our narcotics violations have increased 21 percent, thanks to the caring citizens, officers who enjoy working narcotics cases, and Duke and Tedy, our two police canines."

TPD is working on a new plan of action Farmer hopes to launch around the first of the year.

Fisher said the sheriff's office has a positive working relationship with the District 27 drug task force and has worked several large drug cases during his first term.

"We've been able to make key arrests and take a large amount of illegal drugs off the street," Fisher said. "It helps that we're able to work cases with the task force, too."

Woodward said Oklahoma is the only state with electronic logbooks for the sale of pseudoephedrine at pharmacies.

"Many of the meth cooks are going across the border to other state that still use paper logs, thus exploiting their systems," he said. "Several other states have contacted Oklahoma for guidance as they work toward building electronic log books."

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