Legislature(2005 - 2006)HOUSE FINANCE 519
02/28/2005 01:30 PM FINANCE
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HOUSE BILL NO. 99 An Act relating to controlled substances regarding the crimes of manslaughter, endangering the welfare of a child, and misconduct involving a controlled substance; and providing for an effective date. ANNE CARPENETI, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, LEGAL SERVICES SECTION, CRIMINAL DIVISION, DEPARTMENT OF LAW, summarized what HB 99 would accomplish. · It provides that it would be a manslaughter conviction for manufacturing or delivering meth in violation of drug laws, AS 11.71, if a person dies as the direct result of ingesting the drug. · It also provides that there is no additional comparable mental state required for the State to prove the case. Making the conduct specifically homicide does not operate new ground in the law. 2:46:20 PM · The bill creates a new form of child endangerment st in the 1 degree by providing that it would be a Class C felony to manufacture or attempt to manufacture meth in violation of the State's drug laws in a building, especially if children under 18 use the building as a dwelling. · The bill changes the penalty for possessing meth amphetamine in an organic solution. Right now, it is a Class C felony to possess the substance and it is a Class A felony to possess a precursor to the substance with the intent to manufacture it. It is a known fact that people possess the meth amphetamine in an organic solution in order to extract the powered meth. Co-Chair Chenault noted an on-going case in Fairbanks where a meth lab was found in a motel. Ms. Carpeneti stated that was correct. Representative Weyhrauch commented on the vastness of the problem nationally with meth. He pointed out that "meth amphetamine" was not in the title of the bill and asked if the bill was directed solely to that drug. Ms. Carpeneti explained that two of the sections deal directly with meth amphetamines but the bill does have a broader context. The manslaughter provision is for distribution or manufacturing of any drug in violation to the State's drug laws. Representative Weyhrauch asked if current criminal law allows seizure of a building or car if it is involved in the manufacturing of meth amphetamines. Ms. Carpeneti said she would research that and get back to the Committee. Representative Weyhrauch asked if it was correct that meth amphetamine could not be made without using Sudafed. Ms. Carpeneti deferred to an online expert. Representative Weyhrauch inquired about the possibility of vapors of the meth amphetamine being absorbed into carpets, walls and sheetrock of the lab and outside areas. Ms. Carpeneti understood that was correct and that it could also permeate airwaves of an entire building. Representative Weyhrauch asked if the intent of legislation was that criminal prosecution and application would address any effect that the meth amphetamine reached. Ms. Carpeneti advised that it clarifies if the drug is manufactured in a building with reckless disregard to the danger of any child in that whole structure, that person would be prosecuted in first degree. Representative Weyhrauch commented that reckless disregard is a high standard. Ms. Carpeneti responded that it is the highest, "knowingly" is the second highest, "reckless disregard" the next and "criminal negligence" the last. Representative Weyhrauch discussed "casting a wider net" for lowering that to a comparable mental state. He asked if that change would create a fiscal impact on the prison system. Ms. Carpeneti thought that most meth lab arrests would be able to prove reckless disregard because of the dangerousness of the substance. Representative Weyhrauch revisited the Sudafed question. He asked if it was a critical component of meth amphetamine, would it then be simpler to outlaw Sudafed sales in Alaska. Ms. Carpeneti noted that there are legitimate uses of Sudafed. There are several bills in the Legislature at this time that could regulate the sale of that type of chemical. 2:56:45 PM Representative Holm mentioned a bill passed a couple of years ago that dealt with mandatory cleanup of these sites. He added that HB 149 deals with the meth issue. SGT. TIM BIRT, ALASKA STATE TROOPERS, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY, JUNEAU, testified in support of passage of HB 99. Sgt. Birt commented on the common trend of the meth labs in the State of Alaska. There is a complete disregard from those that manufacture meth amphetamine for their safety as well as the safety of those around them. The manner in which the chemicals are stored creates situations that are extremely hazardous. He stressed that whether it is intentional or not, a dangerous situation is created with the chemicals that are used. In the actual meth labs, the chemicals are usually found from the floor level up to counter top, the areas in which children spend most of their time. Vice-Chair Stoltze asked for a description of the compounds. Sgt. Burt explained that in Alaska, there are two primary methods of manufacturing meth amphetamine. · Using lithium metal and Sudafed · Using iodine and red phosperous Vice-Chair Stoltze inquired about the amounts of Sudafed used. Sgt. Birt explained that in the manufacturing process, the more chemicals put into the front, the more finished product that results. What has been seen in the "box labs" or "mom and pop" labs is that they take a few boxes of Sudafed and manufacture grams and/or ounces of meth. For every one unit of Sudafed in the front end, the result is ¾ unit of meth. Some retailers now limit the number of boxes of Sudafed, which can be sold over the counter. 3:03:32 PM Co-Chair Chenault asked how many meth labs have been busted in Alaska in the last two to five years. Sgt Birt responded that those numbers are available but that he did not have them at this meeting. In 2004, in the Mat-Su valley, there were 50 to 60 meth labs busted. Co-Chair Chenault pointed out that the three fiscal notes all indicate a zero fiscal impact, which surprised him given the size of the problem statewide. He requested that the up front anticipated costs be submitted to the Committee. 3:06:04 PM Representative Holm noted that Alaska has no restrictions on the purchase of Sudafed. He asked if there should be laws in place to limit the sale of any ephedrine. Sgt. Birt commented that Sudafed actually serves legitimate purposes. He agreed it should be regulated and restricted, which might help with the problem. Other states that have restricted the sales have experienced a dramatic decrease in the meth labs. That drop happened almost immediately with the passage of their legislation. Representative Holm understood that if ephedrine came off the market, there are other options for those that need it and could be purchased over the counter. Sgt. Birt acknowledged that there are other compositions of Sudafed such as a gel cap or cough syrup. In other states, only the actual cold tablets are regulated. 3:09:04 PM Representative Holm questioned if that would be possible in Alaska. Sgt. Birt replied that controlling Sudafed tablets would definitely have an impact on the meth labs. Representative Holm recommended that the Committee look further into that possibility. 3:09:36 PM JAMES STEELE, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), MANAGER, OFFICE OF CHILDREN SERVICES, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES, WASILLA, testified in support of HB 99. He commented that he comes into contact with the issues of meth labs not only in his role as manager of children's services but also as a deputy fire chief. Mr. Steele stressed that Mat-Su has the fasted growing population and the fastest growing number of drug labs in the State. Mr. Steele pointed out that two years ago, the local drug teams seized 30 labs; last year, that number increased to 51. He noted that there is a critical problem when cooking meth in that all surfaces become contaminated through the fumes. Toxic fumes and poisonous gases pose an extreme risk for anyone exposed. 3:12:17 PM Last year, the Office of Children Services took custody of 8 active labs. There were workers that transported kids who had to be decontaminated because of their exposure to the meth. He stressed that children's normal behavior, places them at risk for contaminates of the meth and dangerous chemicals. Currently, his office receives about 40 monthly reports related to some aspect of meth production. This is a huge growing concern. Mr. Steele offered to answer questions of the Committee. 3:13:48 PM Vice-Chair Stoltze asked how often are firemen, the first responders to the meth lab scenes. Mr. Steele acknowledged that it does occur, however, often times the fire department does not find out until later in the process. Sometimes there are explosions. He pointed out that they have responded to car fires with mobile labs. It does occur, but he did not know the number. 3:15:22 PM Co-Chair Meyer noted that the bill would be HELD in order to merge it with other bills with a similar concern. 3:16:27 PM Representative Weyhrauch hoped that the legislation would not affect homebrew, wine or beer making. HB 99 was HELD in Committee for further consideration.