The Beat

Crystal meth seems to be making a comeback in the mountains.

Evangelicals tried to convert the reveling masses last Saturday night at Bele Chere. photo by Jonathan Welch

Four years ago, new laws regulating the sale of pseudoephedrine in pharmacies slowed illegal production of the drug.

But last week, the Smoky Mountain News reported that a new way of cooking meth has emerged over the past year, threatening to increase the number of mom-and-pop labs at a time when demand for the drug is high.

“It definitely is on the rise, and I think you can see that in the numbers,” Special Agent Lee Tritt of the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation told the paper.

The article, "Surge in Meth Labs Traced to New Small-Batch Production" went on to report that in 2009, the SBI busted 206 meth labs across the state, compared with 195 in 2008 and 157 in 2007.

Tritt pointed to the rise of “shake-and-bake” labs, which are easy to set up and require less pseudoephedrine to produce a cleaner product. And with the cooking methods readily accessible on the Internet, officials said they expect production to increase throughout the region.

“In the western part of the state, it could be anywhere,” said Tritt. “It’s not a rural or an urban thing. It’s everywhere.”

Detective Rick Buchanan of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office also blamed the poor economy for the rise in meth use.

“Things are getting worse all over, and I think the economy has a lot to do with it,” Buchanan told the paper. “When the economy is down, our business goes up.”

A recent meth lab explosion in Watauga County offers further evidence of the disturbing trend.

In "Meth Mess Closes Landfill," GoBlueRidge reported that someone disposing of the remnants of a methamphetamine lab caused a small explosion and fire that temporarily shut down the Watauga landfill. According to the article, law enforcement is continuing to investigate. At press time, no one had been arrested.

And in other disturbing, drug-related news outside of Asheville, The McDowell News reported that a Marion man spent 150 days in jail for sucking the medication out of his handicapped uncle’s IV tube. According to "Man Guilty of Sucking Drugs from IV Tube," Michael Dwayne English, 38, punctured the IV tube several times and sucked out the Dilaudid with his mouth. Doctors had prescribed the narcotic painkiller for his uncle, whom English was supposed to be taking care of.

As part of a plea arrangement, English was sentenced to 150 days behind bars and given credit for the amount of time spent in pretrial confinement.

Peregrines take to the land of the sky

On a more elevated note, a pair of young peregrine falcons were recently spotted in Chimney Rock Park. Although members of the threatened species have consistently nested in the park since 1989, this spring marked the first time adult birds have mated there, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported.

According to the article "Peregrines Hatch at Chimney Rock," the sighting is good news for the species. At one time, there were fewer than 100 pairs in the entire country, because pesticides had caused females to lay thin-shelled eggs.

But in recent years, reintroduction efforts have helped the population grow. As of 2006, there were an estimated 3,200 pairs of peregrines in the United States, and this year, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission counted 12 pairs nesting in Western North Carolina. The world's fastest birds, the falcons prefer to nest in rocky areas and have also been spotted locally at Looking Glass Rock, Devil's Courthouse and Whiteside Mountain.

About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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