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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Officials say more 'ice' made in homes

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

The state's narcotics enforcement chief yesterday said an increasing number of Hawai'i residents are making crystal methamphetamine, the drug commonly known as "ice," from their homes and even out of their cars.

"With crystal methamphetamine becoming a focal point, we're going to see more and more people trying to manufacture their own," said Keith Kamita, who heads the Narcotics Enforcement Division of the Department of Public Safety. "And they can do this in a house with a very small amount of product."

During the first eight months of 2002, 44.8 percent of arrested males in Honolulu tested positive for ice in voluntary urine tests, an increase of about 37.4 percent from the previous year. Statistics from the city Office of the Medical Examiner showed 62 people who died on O'ahu last year were crystal meth users, a new record.

Kamita told Republican members of the House of Representatives that there are at least 10 ways to make crystal meth.

Many home manufacturers get their formulas off the Internet, "some are correct, some are not," Kamita said. The incorrect recipes turn into concoctions that sometimes can be more toxic, he said.

Pseudoephedrine, a key component of crystal meth, can be bought over the counter in any drug store, he said.

An administrative rule bars anyone from buying more than 24 grams of pseudoephedrine, but Kamita said that limit should be lowered.

His agency has been working with pharmacy retailers and pseudoephedrine manufacturers to better control access to the chemical to prevent shoplifting, a constant problem, by limiting the amount they keep on accessible shelves or leaving it behind the counter entirely.

After turning the pseudoephedrine into crystal, it needs to be heated with red phosphorous, which is commonly used as the ignitable part of a match, and other household ingredients, he said.

Narcotics agents have even found people operating drug labs out of the car trunks and out of a box at the beach.

Neighbors of suspected ice manufacturers should report suspicious activity, if for no other reason that ice-making chemicals or their byproducts release lethal fumes, Kamita said.

While ice itself is odorless, phosphoric gas and other chemicals are not, he said.

Additionally, he said, "because we're dealing with a lot of dangerous materials, there are a lot of fires."

House Minority Leader Galen Fox, R-23rd (Waikiki, Ala Moana, Kaka'ako), said the ice problem is one of the two major issues that Republican members want to deal with during the period between legislative sessions.

Fox said the minority will work toward tighter restrictions on the purchase of ephedrine, pseudoephedrine and other related chemicals, easing up search-and-seizure laws, and reinstituting a law requiring that a mandatory prison sentence be given to anyone in possession of an ounce or more of crystal meth.

Prevention and education programs should also be supported, he said.

Kamita told reporters after the meeting that expanding his staff of 16 — 13 of them sworn officers — by about four or five officers would also help with enforcement. A greater presence of officers would help increase enforcement on the Neighbor Islands, he said.

House Democrats, meanwhile, yesterday announced that the leadership of both the House and Senate will announce members who will participate in a House-Senate Committee on the Ice Crisis.

Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona has also announced a conference to deal with the ice issue.

Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at gpang@honoluluadvertiser.com or at 525-8070.