Albany – Citing the dramatic increase in the number of clandestine laboratories that produce methamphetamines, State Senator Michael F. Nozzolio (R-Fayette) today announced that the New York State Senate has approved legislation (S.3511) he is sponsoring which would enhance law enforcement’s efforts to combat and prosecute operators of “meth” laboratories as well as the theft or possession of stolen anhydrous ammonia.
The legislation sponsored by Senator Nozzolio was adopted as part of a package of bills passed by the Senate to crack down on the production of dangerously addictive methamphetamines.
“Addressing and combating the growing production of methamphetamines is critically important to the safety of all residents in New York State,” said Senator Nozzolio, Chairman of the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee. “The use of highly addictive methamphetamines is the fastest growing drug problem in the country and is destroying people’s lives. Tough new laws are needed now to shut down the clandestine labs in our State where methamphetamines are being produced.”
Methamphetamine is the fastest growing drug threat and most prevalent synthetic drug manufactured in the United States. In the past six years, New York has seen a dramatic rise in the number of clandestine laboratories operating throughout the state. Between 1999 and 2004, there were a total of 193 responses by the State police to meth lab incidents.
The legislation sponsored by Senator Nozzolio that was passed today would impose significant criminal penalties upon persons who operate or assist in the operation of clandestine methamphetamine laboratories and would increase penalties for the theft of, or possession of, stolen anhydrous ammonia, which is used to manufacture meth.
Anhydrous ammonia is most commonly used as an agricultural fertilizer and industrial refrigerant generally stored and used at agricultural retailers and facilities. Thieves profit from the ammonia when they steal it from farmers and sell to illegal drug makers.
“As we have witnessed in our region, illegal drug makers often steal anhydrous ammonia from farmers and other areas where it is stored and used. Police have arrested illegal drug runners in southern Cayuga County for stealing anhydrous ammonia from local farms. Police have also discovered at least four illegal methamphetamine labs in Cayuga County and one lab in Seneca County,” continued Nozzolio.
The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is concerned with anhydrous ammonia’s potential use as a chemical weapon. The substance is stored as liquid under pressure and becomes a toxic gas when released into the environment. The toxic cloud of gas can travel along the ground before dispersing into the air where it can have deadly effects.
“In addition to its use in the production of illegal drugs, anhydrous ammonia could potentially be used as a chemical weapon in domestic terrorism. When stolen, the toxic gas can be unintentionally, or intentionally, released, causing injury to law enforcement, emergency responders, and the public. The theft of anhydrous ammonia has become even more important in the wake of September 11 and our state and nation’s ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, both foreign and domestic,” continued Nozzolio.
The legislation defines clandestine laboratory operations as illegal; imposes penalties upon persons who operate such laboratories to create illegal methamphetamine; punishes individuals for the theft of anhydrous ammonia, and punishes the criminal possession of stolen anhydrous ammonia. Specifically, the bill would make the theft or possession of stolen anhydrous ammonia a Class E felony and creates the crimes of unlawful clandestine laboratory operation in the second and first degrees.
Currently, the theft or possession of anhydrous ammonia is not included among the substances subject to felony prosecution under State law.
A state report earlier this year warned that methamphetamine will become an increasingly dire public health and safety threat unless New York adopts new and tougher laws to combat the drug’s proliferation. The report by the State Commission of Investigation (SIC), “Methampehtamine Use & Manufacture,” warned that the drug’s rapidly growing use and manufacture “poses an urgent threat to public health and safety and without new and tougher laws to combat the threat, New York could become a haven for methamphetamine users and manufacturers.”
“It is critical that we enact this legislation into law to combat this substance’s potential illegal and deadly uses. We must take the necessary action to protect our farmers, our families, our communities and our state,” Nozzolio concluded.