The Beat: Weekly news roundup

Mountains of Meth

It looks like crystal meth is making a comeback in the mountains.

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

But last week, the Smoky Mountain News reported that a new method for cooking meth has emerged over the past year, threatening to increase the number of “mom and pop” labs at a moment 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 to 195 labs in 2008 and 157 labs in 2007.

Tritt pointed to the rise of “shake and bake” meth 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 continue to rise throughout WNC.

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

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

“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 at the Watauga landfill. According to the article, the landfill was forced to close for a time, and law enforcement is continuing to investigate.

And in other disturbing drug related news outside of town, 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 the dilauded out with his mouth. Dilauded is a narcotic painkiller that had been medically prescribed to his uncle, who English was supposed to be serving as a caretaker.

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

New peregrins take to the land of the sky

In more upbeat news, a pair of young peregrine falcons were recently spotted in Chimney Rock Park. Although the members of the rare bird species have been consistently nesting in the park since 1989, this spring marked the first time adults have mated in the area, reported the Asheville Citizen-Times.

According to last week’s article, “Peregrines hatch at Chimney Rock,” the sight of young peregrines is a good sign for the species.  At one time, there were fewer than 100 pairs in the entire country, with populations threatened by the use of pesticides that caused females to lay thin-shelled eggs.

But in more recent years, reintroduction efforts have successfully 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 fasted birds, the falcons prefer to nest in rocky areas and have also been found at Looking Glass Rock, Devil’s Courthouse and Whitesides Mountain.

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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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