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Meth lab findings last year surpass state record

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The state agency that keeps track of meth labs located by police reported more labs than ever last year and says so far this year officers have reported about two labs a day.

About 271 meth labs were reported to the Clandestine Drug Lab Remediation program, which is under the Bureau of Public Health in the Department of Health and Human Resources, program coordinator Brandon Lewis said.

Those labs were found in homes or other structures, for example hotels or motels. The State Police reported 284 labs for the year, but Lewis said troopers' findings also included lab dumpsites, which are not required to be reported to the remediation program.

Law enforcement agencies are required by law to report meth labs found in structures to the program, Lewis said. The numbers of labs found have been steadily rising since officers began reporting them to the program in 2008.

"Last year was sort of a record for our state," Lewis said Wednesday. "We've already had 40 so far this year, so it looks like it'll be an exciting year."

Before this year's tally, the highest number of labs recorded for the state was 216 labs in 2004. Lewis said 197 of those labs were found in Kanawha County.

Fifty labs were reported in the state in 2008, he said. But that number has steadily risen since then, for a couple of reasons, he said.

Lewis said from 2008 until now has been an educational period for officers in knowing to report meth labs found in structures. He said 109 labs were reported in 2009 and 140 were reported in 2010. Officers reported 171 in 2011.

"A lot of it has to do with law enforcement notifying our office," Lewis said. "A lot of agencies didn't understand that we needed to know here to fulfill our obligation to the public, and to make sure that no one is going into these possibly contaminated structures."

Another factor that came into play, he said, was the growing popularity of "shake and bake" or one-pot manufacturing.

"The ease of manufacturing has some to do with it," Lewis said. "Years ago it took one to two days to manufacture meth. Now this new one pot, 'shake and bake' method takes 45 minutes to two hours.

"Now they don't need a heat source. They cook it in a pop bottle and they can do it in a house or in a backpack or in their pants pocket."

He said officers reported finding a meth lab in a man's pants pocket last year. Lewis said the man had been making meth in a bottle tucked inside a pocket in his cargo pants.

"Its amazing to me that they can do it so easily," Lewis said.

A law passed in 2005 to move over the counter drugs containing pseudoephedrine to behind the counter. That law required purchasers to show ID to buy the product.

A 2012 law limited how much pseudoephedrine could be purchased. A person could purchase only one box, about 3.6 grams, in one day. That person can buy no more than 7.2 grams per month, which equates to about one pill a day for a month, and 48 grams a year, which is about a six-month supply.

He said those limits still allow residents to buy enough to manufacture a personal supply of meth.

Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at ashley.craig@dailymail.com or 304-348-4850.


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