Co-op not `meth’ing around with iodine sales |

Co-op not `meth’ing around with iodine sales

If you want to buy a pint of iodine at the Roaring Fork Co-Op, be prepared to show your ID.

The Carbondale ranch store now requires iodine buyers to produce a telephone number and address, because the substance is a key ingredient used in illegal methamphetamine labs.

“We had people buying six to eight pints at a time,” said Roaring Fork Co-Op manager Mark Sours. “They didn’t fit the profile of a typical user. … A rancher buys it a pint at a time.”

TRIDENT team leader Kurt Conrad applauded the Co-Op for its new policy. “I think it’s great,” Conrad said. “They are doing the right thing.”

Conrad, who directs TRIDENT’s drug law enforcement efforts in Garfield and Rio Blanco counties, said three meth labs operations have been uncovered this year in the New Castle, Rifle and Rio Blanco areas.

“There’s been a big increase,” Conrad said of the meth labs. “In the past one or two years, it’s up noticeably.”

The 16-county, multi-agency High Intensity Drug Traffic Area region, which includes TRIDENT, counted 314 meth lab arrests in 2001, said spokeswoman Bev Walz from her Denver office.

There are several ways to manufacture methamphetamine, a highly addictive stimulant that can keep users high for up to 14 hours.

Laboratories don’t have to be very sophisticated. Conrad said for a small lab, the operator just needs a hot plate and Pyrex dish. A batch of meth can be cooked in three to four hours. The end result is a powder that can be smoked, inhaled like cocaine, or injected with a hypodermic needle.

Manufacturing meth is a dangerous and nasty business, however, for operators and anyone else nearby. Meth labs can explode or catch on fire, Conrad said. The process produces toxic vapors. For every one pound of meth produced, five to six pounds of hazardous waste is also produced.

“The toxic chemicals are just horrible,” Conrad said.

The gases meth labs produce can render homes and apartments unlivable after the operators move on, leaving someone else to clean up the mess.

“Meth labs are a huge problem,” Conrad said.

Iodine is legally used primarily as a disinfectant. Sours, at the Roaring Fork Co-Op, said ranchers use a lot of iodine during calving season, but they don’t need a gallon at a time. After a customer bought a large quantity of iodine this summer, Co-Op employees started comparing notes and realized other customers had made similar purchases. The new policy went into effect two weeks ago.

Sours said he hates to profile people, but he and his employees know the ranchers and regular customers who are likely to buy iodine. He figures people likely to misuse iodine probably won’t want to provide their telephone numbers and addresses.

“It might scare them off,” Sours said.

Conrad said the Co-Op’s new policy might not put a big dent in the number of meth labs in operation, but it will displace them and slow them down. “And that’s important,” Sours said.

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