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Meth producers find no friends in Senate

April 10, 2001
By: Nick White
Links: SB 89 & SB 37
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Two days after methamphetamine makers caused the evacuation of a rural Missouri town, state lawmakers urged no sympathy for manufacturers of the illicit drug.

The state Senate gave first-round approval Tuesday to stiffer penalties for having anhydrous ammonia, a scarce but important ingredient in meth production.

Missouri's production of meth, a foul-smelling cocktail of lethal gases and the active ingredient in cough medicine, still ranks second in the nation, said Sen. Anita Yeckel, R-St. Louis County.

Senators offered no opposition to the bill and several amendments tacked onto the bill.

Early Sunday morning, Old Monroe, Mo., population 240, was forced to evacuate when an anhydrous ammonia leak sent a volatile cloud of chemicals over the city. The leak was a result of meth makers, police said.

A news story about the event was distributed to Senate members before discussion about the bill.

Anhydrous ammonia, an extremely toxic chemical, is stored as a pressurized liquid and is used mainly by farmers to spray fertilizers.

The bill would raise the penalty for stealing anhydrous ammonia from a Class C felony to Class D and criminalize possessing the chemical in an unapproved container.

The bill's fiscal note said the cost is expected to exceed $100,000 in any given year, a relatively large fiscal note.

The state Highway Patrol busted 588 meth labs statewide and netted over 600 arrests last year.

One of the bill's amendments provides immunity to owners of anhydrous ammonia from thieves of the chemical suing them in a civil lawsuit.

Yes, that's right, currently, people stealing anhydrous ammonia can sue the person they are stealing it from if they are hurt while stealing it.

"Those who attempt to steal can't sue the person if they get hurt or their lungs are damaged," said Sen. MOrris Westfall, D-Halfway. "This is the way to go and this is a needed piece of legislation."

Another amendment proposed would require landlords of former meth labs to disclose that information to people looking at houses and apartments.

"It's a protection to those who rent or buy property," said Sen. David Klarich, R-St. Louis County.