Methamphetamine Production Prevention Act of 2007

Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the bipartisan Methamphetamine Production Prevention Act of 2007. I am pleased to have the support and cosponsorship of Senator Grassley for this important legislation, and I look forward to working closely with Chairman Leahy and Ranking Member Specter to advance the bill through the judiciary Committee and to secure its enactment into law.

The Methamphetamine Production Prevention Act will take the next step toward wiping out the domestic production of methamphetamine, or ``meth.'' The bill will make it easier to use electronic logbook systems in order to monitor sales of meth precursor drugs and notify enforcement agencies when individuals illegally stockpile these precursors by traveling from pharmacy to pharmacy.

This legislation is endorsed by the National Alliance of State Drug Enforcement Agencies, the National Narcotics Officers' Associations' Coalition, the National Criminal Justice Association, the National Sheriffs' Association, the Major County Sheriffs' Association, the National Troopers Coalition, the National District Attorneys Association, the National Association of Counties, and the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America. I also want to commend and thank Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and her staff for their assistance in preparing this legislation.

For years, the manufacture and use of methamphetamine have plagued communities in Illinois and throughout the Nation. Meth is unique among illegal drugs in that its harms stem not only from its distribution and use, but also from the clandestine manufacturing labs that meth ``cooks'' use to make meth. These labs pose serious dangers to those who live nearby and to the surrounding environment. Law enforcement agencies in Illinois and elsewhere are forced to devote a significant percentage of their time to locating, busting, and cleaning up meth labs.

The Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act, ``Combat Meth Act,'' enacted in 2006, took several important steps to reduce domestic meth manufacturing. These steps included limiting the amount of meth precursor drug products that a purchaser can buy, such as pseudoephedrine, and requiring pharmacies to keep written or electronic logbooks recording each precursor purchase. The Combat Meth Act has led to a drop in the number of meth labs discovered in many States.

However, domestic meth cooks have begun adapting to the Combat Meth Act. They have figured out how to circumvent the act's restrictions by ``smurfing,'' or purchasing illegal amounts of meth precursor drugs by traveling to multiple pharmacies that keep written logbooks and buying legal quantities at each one. According to Illinois law enforcement authorities, smurfing now accounts for at least 90 percent of the pseudoephedrine used to make meth in Illinois.

The next step in combating domestic meth production is to promote the use of effective electronic logbook systems. Law enforcement experts agree that if pharmacies maintain electronic logbook information and share that information with appropriate law enforcement and regulatory agencies, this information can be used to prevent the sale of meth precursor drugs in excess of legal limits, and to identify and prosecute ``smurfs'' and meth cooks.

This legislation, the Methamphetamine Production Prevention Act, facilitates and encourages the use of meth precursor electronic logbook systems in several ways.

First, the bill revises the technical logbook requirements in the Combat Meth Act. While the Combat Meth Act provides for the use of electronic logbook systems, several of the act's requirements are not tailored for logbooks kept in electronic form. For example, under the act, a prospective purchaser must ``enter[] into the logbook his or her name, address, and the date and time of the sale.'' This requirement is unwieldy for retailers who use electronic logbook systems, because many purchasers cannot type quickly or accurately. The Methamphetamine Production Prevention Act would permit retailers' employees to type the name and address of a purchaser into an electronic logbook system, and would allow retailers to use software programs that automatically record the date and time of each sale. Under the bill, a retail employee would have to ensure that the name the employee types into the system matches the name on the ID that the purchaser is currently required to present.

Also, the Combat Meth Act requires purchasers to sign a logbook at the time of sale, regardless of whether the seller uses a paper or electronic logbook. Collecting and retaining electronic signatures requires a large amount of computer memory, and the transmission of these electronic signature files to law enforcement agencies does not provide a significant law enforcement benefit. Sellers who use electronic logbook systems should be given the option of collecting signatures on paper, as long as those signatures are stored for the requisite 2-year retention period, and as long as the signatures are clearly linked to the electronically-captured sale information.

The Methamphetamine Production Prevention Act would permit a seller who uses an electronic logbook to collect purchaser signatures through any of three different methods: (1) having the purchaser sign an electronic signature device; (2) having the purchaser sigh a bound paper book in which the signature is placed adjacent to a unique identifier number, or a printed sticker that clearly links the signature to the purchaser's logbook information; or (3) having the purchaser sign a document that the seller prints out at the time of sale that displays the required logbook information and contains a signature line. These options ensure that each purchaser's signature will be collected, but they give sellers flexibility in developing cost-effective electronic logbook systems.

The Methamphetamine Production Prevention Act would also create a small but important Federal grant program to help States plan, create or enhance electronic logbook systems. Several States, including Oklahoma, Arkansas, West Virginia and Kentucky, have already begun developing electronic logbook systems, and many other States are considering them. The Methamphetamine Production Prevention Act authorizes $3 million in grants to States and localities, with grants capped at a maximum of $300,000. The bill imposes a 25-percent State matching requirement, to ensure that States have, invested in their logbook systems and have a stake in ensuring the successful operation of these systems.

Instead of mandating how States design their electronic logbook systems, the bill provides incentives for States to design effective logbook systems. Because meth smurfs frequently travel across State lines to stockpile meth precursors, State efforts to develop electronic logbook systems will be more successful if those efforts are coordinated with the activities of other states. The bill would therefore give priority to grant applicants whose logbook systems are developed in consultation with a working group of key Federal, State and private stakeholders spearheaded by the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws. This working group will advise States on best practices in developing logbook systems and will help States develop logbook systems that are compatible and interoperable with other systems across the country.

The bill also gives a grantmaking preference to applicants whose logbook systems are statewide, are capable of sharing information in real time, and are designed to share information across jurisdictional boundaries. At the same time, the bill preserves the privacy safeguards currently established under the Combat Meth Act and State law. To promote accountability, the bill requires the Attorney General to provide an annual report to Congress that evaluates the grant program and its effectiveness in curtailing meth production.

The Methamphetamine Production Prevention Act does not mandate the use of electronic logbook systems, nor does it mandate the features that an electronic logbook system must possess. The bill respects the fact that States have enacted various types of anti-meth restrictions above the Federal Combat Meth Act baseline, and that pharmacies and retailers in different States have different capabilities with regard to electronic tracking. At the same time, we want to encourage States to coordinate their development of methamphetamine precursor electronic logbook systems so that smurfs will not be able to supply their meth labs by hopping across State lines. Our bill aims to strike a balance by coordinating the various State efforts, while still allowing States the flexibility to innovate and to respond to their specific State needs.

There are many actions besides promoting electronic logbook systems that we must take to address the scourge of methamphetamine. For example, we must provide for the prevention and treatment of meth use, and we must also prevent the illegal distribution of meth and its precursors over the Internet and from other countries. However, law enforcement experts agree that electronic logbook systems are an important tool in our effort to combat meth, particularly domestic meth labs. We can, and should, do more to help make these logbook systems work.

By facilitating and encouraging the use of electronic logbook systems, the Methamphetamine Production Prevention Act will help wipe out domestic meth labs and the environmental and social harms they cause. The bill will also help free up law enforcement resources from meth lab busts and cleanup, allowing our law enforcement agencies to focus on other crime prevention and enforcement efforts. The production of methamphetamine has plagued our communities for far too long, and this legislation takes a critical step to stop it. I urge the Senate to pass this important bill.