How big money lobbyists influence Missouri’s war on meth

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

FRANKLIN COUNTY, MO (KTVI) - A Missouri narcotics officer says he’s given up on the legal fight to stop meth labs in Missouri. He points to the State of Oregon, where deputies claim to have wiped out meth labs with a simple solution.

To get answers, we traveled the rural roads of Missouri. That’s where we found former meth cook Michael

“I’m not even allowed in Walgreens or anything anymore,” he said.

O’Daniel says he used to make meth inside empty 12 ounce plastic soda bottles.

“If you get crazy enough, you can make ten grams out of that, would be about a thousand dollars out of that,” he said.

O’Daniel says a competitor set him up and put something in his batch that led to an explosion. It was three years ago, yet he says he still burns when he sweats.

“I just pulled a piece of lithium out about a week ago,” he said.

O’Daniel lives in Lincoln County, where pseudoephedrine is primarily prescription only.

“I’d travel to St. Louis County or I’d travel to Warren County. You can get it all over around here,” he said. “It’s kind of weird that you can pick out these two counties, you’ve got Lincoln County and St. Charles County you can’t buy it in. All the other surrounding counties you can’t buy it in.”

What if it were statewide?

“I think it would knock it down pretty quickly,” O’Daniel said.

For the record, Franklin and Jefferson counties are also “prescription only” counties. That prescription requirement is not countywide in Lincoln County, but police say there’s only one pharmacy there that’s not covered.

Lt. Jason Grellner, Vice President of the National Narcotic Officers’ Associations’ Coalition, has been pushing Missouri legislators for more than a decade.

“We have a will to control it. We just don’t, we don’t have money to control it,” he said. “You run up against the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which sounds like an association for consumers, which is actually the mouthpiece for the pharmaceutical industry.”

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) spent more than $1 million lobbying politicians last year, according to the website OpenSecrets.org. That's at the top 11 percent of lobbyist spending for that that year.

Lt. Grellner says he finally gave up pushing state legislators and started working with individual cities, beginning with Washington, Missouri.

“After I had about three or four more cities, a handful of cities on board, I started to get noticed again and at that point we started seeing the Consumer Healthcare Products Association and its lobbyists showing up at city council meetings,” Grellner said.

About 10 years ago, Oregon passed a statewide law, making pseudoephedrine prescription only. Fox 2 contacted Multnomah County Sheriff`s Office Deputy Brett King via Skype for his opinion.

“It impacted the largest pseudoephedrine manufacturer in the world—in West Germany—so much so that they had to lay off 15 percent of its workforce that year,” King said.

Deputy King says drug labs dropped from 600 to only nine when they last checked.

“Meth labs are virtually non-existent here in Oregon now,” he said.

CHPA says it’s legitimate and law-abiding consumers who don’t want pseudoephedrine prescription only. It points to a March 2014 poll it sponsored showing “voters oppose” a “prescription only” law in Missouri “64 percent to 29 percent.”

Joy Krieger with the Allergy and Asthma Foundation says it would be especially bad for Missouri, considering the number of people fighting allergies.

“Patients who need this medication on a daily basis and there are many who need it year-round, not just seasonally, so not only are you asking them to have the inconvenience of not being able to get it, but now they’re going to have to make an appointment with a physician,” she said.

Krieger says we'll all pay in higher healthcare costs.

“What else are we going to have to do in our life to change because of criminal activity?” she said.

CHPA says the pharmaceutical industry already pays for a computer tracking system called NPLEx. CHPA claims NPLEx blocked sales of 4,718,902 boxes of pseudoephedrine since 2011, while supplying police with information that might help track potential meth cooks.

Former cook O’Daniel said it was only his own decision to stop that turned him around.

“Before my Hannibal treatment, I really had no desire of quitting, until it was actually laid down about what it does, the burden of the family,” he said.

O’Daniel worries about portable meth pots like the one that blew up on him.

“You’re making a bomb, that’s exactly what it is,” he said. “I’ve walked across bottles on the side of the road that are still active, you know. If a little kid finds it or something and opened it up, it could explode on him.”

Follow Chris Hayes on Twitter @ChrisHayesTV