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Authorities report progress in fight against meth

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Sales of cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine, one of the main ingredients of meth, have been restricted in Minnesota since Aug. 1. Law enforcement officials say that's one reason for the declining number of meth labs found in the state. (MPR file photo)

St. Cloud, Minn. — (AP) - A new law designed to make methamphetamine ingredients harder to obtain is cutting into production of the illegal drug in the state, a state expert said Tuesday.

Special Agent Paul Stevens reported that the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has seen a significant drop in the number of homegrown meth labs since the law took effect Aug. 1.

"Meth labs have collapsed to the point of near extinction," Stevens said. State crime investigators are encountering far fewer of the clandestine labs than they were a year ago, he said.

He spoke at a conference focused on fighting meth in rural communities.

Stevens didn't provide hard numbers; instead, he based his assessment on the decline in calls to the BCA from local authorities seeking help cleaning up the hazardous contamination in labs.

Earlier this year, state lawmakers placed new restrictions on the purchase of over-the-counter medicine used to make meth. Cold tablets that are key elements of meth are now available only behind pharmacy counters. Purchasers are limited in the amount they could buy, they must sign a log and show ID proving they are at least 18 years old.

Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, a sponsor of the new law, echoed Stevens' claim that it "has taken a huge bite out of meth production in the state."

She was also a speaker at the conference where police, social workers, employers, nonprofit workers and others discussed how to prevent meth's spread, treat those addicted to the drug and spot users.

More than 1,700 people attended the one-day gathering.

Even before the 2005 law passed, the state had been experiencing a decline in meth-related incidents, the broad category the Department of Health classified meth busts under.

Police reported nearly 500 meth incidents in 2003, but a year later that number dropped to 317.

The reported drop in meth labs doesn't mean the drug is disappearing, officials cautioned. Meth is still flowing into the state from elsewhere, they said.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)