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Locals use meth made in Mexico

As the methamphetamine trade expands globally, Nevada County residents continue to obtain drugs manufactured in “superlabs” in Mexico, local law enforcement officials said Monday.

The trade has expanded to include 26 million users worldwide in a network supported by manufacturers in countries including China, South Africa, Russia and Australia and smuggled by criminal organizations from Eastern Europe, Asia and elsewhere, according to a report Monday by the Wall Street Journal.

The superlabs are the result of stricter state and federal laws in the United States pushing production beyond American borders, narcotics officials said.



“The superlabs are definitely moving south of the border,” said Nevada County Sheriff’s Lt. Bill Evans, former head of the county’s narcotics task force.

In California, the home meth lab in the bathtub is virtually extinct.




Recent state and federal laws have made it much more difficult to obtain the basic chemicals used to produce meth, including red phosphate, iodine and cold medicines that contain pseudoephedrine, Evans said.

And more stringent sentencing for meth producers means that no one wants to get caught with a lab on their property, Evans said.

“You get caught with a lab, you go straight to prison,” Evans said. “I’d be comfortable saying 100 percent of our meth comes from superlabs.”

A meth lab is considered a superlab if it produces 10 or more pounds of methamphetamine per batch, Evans said. The street value of a pound of uncut methamphetamine is about $25,000.

“Many times, (meth producers) will rent a barn or something from a farmer out in the middle of nowhere for some extraordinary amount of money, like $10,000 a month, and say ‘Don’t come over here for a while.’ That’s usually how it works,” Evans said.

The labs typically are funded by the illegal sale of marijuana from large grows in California, Evans said, because of the state’s ideal climate for growing the plant.

Mexican connection

California is home to more superlabs than other states because of it’s close proximity to the Mexican border, Evans said. Many basic ingredients are smuggled in from Mexico, and Mexican marijuana cartels already operating in the state have both the infrastructure and financing available to support the meth superlabs.

Nevertheless, the superlabs are moving south at a rapid rate.

According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, there were 244 seizures at superlabs in the United States in 2001; the number decreased to 17 in 2006.

From those superlabs, couriers deliver the meth to various distribution centers throughout the state, where dealers pick it up and fan out to other cities.

“Most of the distribution for (Nevada County) comes from Sacramento, Yuba City and Marysville,” Evans said.

And when the drug gets to Nevada County, drug dealers are careful to never carry it in large quantities.

“If you have a pound, you’re done,” Evans said, “so they’ll take several trips to a distribution area every day, and if they’re caught with it, they can say it’s for personal use, then go into drug treatment instead of prison.”

The Mexican connection is an example of unlikely drug deals struck across borders to circumvent methamphetamine controls in the U.S.

A story Monday in the Wall Street Journal described how the meth trade is exploding in South Africa, where gangs are getting the drug or its ingredients from Chinese sources in exchange for abalone poached in South African waters.

While it still is easier to make meth in Mexico, Evans said, the Mexican government is pushing for tighter controls on the chemicals used to make the drug.

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To contact Staff Writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail robynm@theunion.com or call 477-4236.

For more

information

For more information about methamphetamine production and distribution in the United States, go to the National Drug Intelligence Center’s Web site at www.

usdoj.gov/ndic.


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