The DEA says the number of methamphetamine labs in Colorado are on the decline.

According to the DEA, there were 44 meth lab busts on the local, state and federal level in Colorado last year. In 2003 there were 345 of those types of busts.

The DEA gives several explanations for this, such as legislation curbing the number of cold pills one can buy, but I think the obvious explanation is that 80% of the meth in this country comes from Mexico. One other factor to take into consideration: In 2005,

Scott Burns, Deputy Director of the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) recently contradicted the epidemic rhetoric, telling a Congressional sub-committee that Americas estimated 1.5 million methamphetamine users make up only 8% of the country’s estimated 19 million drug users.

Laws restricting cold pills are unnecessary.

According to the DEA’s own website, most of this country’s meth comes not from garage laboratories in the Midwest, but from clandestine “superlabs” in California and Mexico. These labs smuggle pseudoephedrine in bulk from Mexico and Canada and use it to manufacture street methempamphetamine, which they then distribute across the country. Cold and allergy medicine never enters the picture. It’s almost certain that these superlabs would compensate for any small dip in the meth supply caused by limiting homemade “meth cooks'”access to pseudoephedrine. Laws like Talent-Feinstein and similar bills in statehouses across the country do little more than inconvenience cold and allergy sufferers. They also create yet another way for authorities to monitor and track our consumer habits. These laws also likely make common cold medicine more expensive for stores to stock and, therefore, more expensive for customers to buy. The registries and purchasing procedures will lead to longer lines at the pharmacy, particularly during cold and allergy season.

What’s next? Will we restrict the sales of drain cleaner, antifreeze, iodine, and water – all of which can be used to make meth? The DEA says we need to focus on demand. To do that, we need more drug courts that focus on alternative sentences and treatment for drug offenders. In Utah, drug courts and prevention programs are used extensively state-wide,

Drug courts are successful because of constant drug testing and positive reinforcement for success, and sanctions for failure, said Richard Schwermer, drug court coordinator. “Drug court treatment is the best intervention for criminal justice system-involved addicts,” Schermer said. “You get an immediate, both a carrot and a stick, response.”

For more reading, check out Jacob Sullum at Reason (also here.)