Lawmaker Says Delay Spells Trouble for Key Anti-Meth Bill

By: Amanda Fehd AP
By: Amanda Fehd AP

Assembly Democrats delayed a vote Thursday on the strongest anti-methamphetamine measure this session over concerns it could be in danger of failure because of lack of support from Republicans.

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said a vote on AB150 was
delayed until Monday after Democrats heard last-minute rumblings that Republicans were planning to vote in a bloc against the measure.

Assembly Minority Leader Garn Mabey, R-Las Vegas, denied any such plan. He said he is against the bill, but if a vote had been held, he believes it would have passed because a few Republicans do support it.

"I definitely feel strongly that we need to do something for meth, but you can't make it unfair on one industry or pick on them," Mabey said.

The bill needs a two-thirds majority to pass because it includes a yearly fee for convenience stores that want to sell certain cold medicines containing precursors to meth. Democrats are one vote short of a two-thirds majority in the Assembly.

By targeting convenience stores, the bill is stronger than a federal law that went into effect last year requiring only pharmacies to keep the medicines behind the counter and keep track of who is buying them.

AB150 already has been watered down. A provision requiring a doctor's prescription for all cold medicines that contain pseudoephedrine was dropped in the face of opposition from consumers who use cold and allergy medications, retailers and the
drug industry.

"I am very disappointed in the Legislature's response to what I view as the No. 1 public safety crisis in the state. I believe we are going to see a resurgence of meth labs as we crack down on the meth coming from Mexico," Leslie said.

Tom Clark, a lobbyist for the Meth Community Response Alliance, said the bill gives law enforcement the tools it needs to track trends in cold medicine sales.

"It's going to give them data to identify where Sudafed is being sold in this state, when it peaks, when it levels out. It gives them a tool so we can keep meth labs out of the state of Nevada," Clark said. The alliance is a coalition of more than 30 public and private organizations in Washoe County working to end the meth epidemic through prevention and treatment.

Other organizations pushing for the bill include Clark and Washoe counties' sheriff departments.

Clark said it's wrong that millions of dollars may be spent on prison expansion in Nevada, while very little money is being spent on drug treatment. He said the meth epidemic is a huge burden on both systems.

Of the 368 new inmates who checked into the Northern Nevada Correctional Center during a recent six-week period, 294 were methamphetamine addicts and half admitted they were high when they
committed their crimes, Clark said.

"Methamphetamine is ruining families, it's ruining kids, it's an epidemic in this state. If we take these small steps, it will have a large impact on the number of meth labs in this state," Clark said.

Those lobbying in favor of the bill were busy Thursday trying to convince some Republicans to switch sides.

Assemblywoman Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, said she is going to take another look at the bill after speaking with one of its proponents.

"My concern is that this may make it very difficult for the retailers to provide the medication to people who legitimately need it," Gansert said.

Assemblyman John Carpenter, R-Elko, said he'd likely recuse himself from the vote because he owns a convenience store.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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