SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed a law that toughens current anti-methamphetamine laws by making any attempt to possess, procure, transport, store, or deliver a key meth ingredient a Class 4 felony. Class 4 felonies can carry a prison term of one to three years and/or a fine of up to $25,000. Senate Bill 274, sponsored by State Senator Larry Bomke (R-Springfield) and State Rep. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy), makes it a felony to attempt to steal, improperly store, or transport anhydrous ammonia. Anhydrous ammonia is a key ingredient in the production of methamphetamine, and its storage in unauthorized containers can be extremely dangerous. This increased penalty will deter those who may be planning to steal anhydrous ammonia to manufacture methamphetamine.
“Anhydrous ammonia is useful as a fertilizer; unfortunately it is also an ingredient for methamphetamine production and becomes extremely dangerous when it’s not handled properly,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “We must do what we can to stop the spread of meth addiction and trafficking in our communities, and to protect the public from the dangers associated with obtaining the ingredients for meth. This bill is a step in that direction and will make sure that those who put the public at risk by manufacturing this dangerous drug face stiff consequences.”
Anhydrous ammonia is traditionally stored in large tanks under pressure for use on farms. Because it is difficult for meth cookers to access the substance easily, farmers’ tanks of anhydrous ammonia are often targeted by meth ‘cookers’. When released, anhydrous ammonia can cause injuries to emergency responders, the public, and meth cookers. When handled improperly, anhydrous ammonia can be explosive and deadly. Meth cookers steal anhydrous ammonia in unauthorized containers such as beverage coolers and gas canisters.
Current law classifies the attempted possession, procurement, transportation, or delivery of anhydrous ammonia in an unauthorized container as a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a prison term of up to 364 days, 2 years of probation and a maximum fine of $2,500.
In May, Governor Blagojevich awarded $535,000 in Anhydrous Ammonia Security Grants to 50 Illinois agrichemical dealers throughout the state. The funding helps prevent the theft of anhydrous ammonia, a farm fertilizer and key ingredient used to manufacture methamphetamine. This was the second installment of grants since the Governor created the Anhydrous Ammonia Grant Program in August 2006, and furthers the Governor’s efforts to reduce the production and manufacture of the illicit drug.
Meth has become a growing crisis in the State of Illinois with prison admissions rising from only 6 in fiscal year 1999 to 421 in fiscal year 2004. The current prison population for Meth offenders is more than 800 with countless others in prison who are believed to have committed their offense while under the influence of the drug. In 2002, Illinois State Police seized 668 meth labs statewide and made 820 related arrests. By 2006, the number of seizures had grown to 786, and accounted for over 1,100 arrests.
Last year, the Governor created the Meth Prison Initiative, which included the creation of a 200-bed Meth Unit at the 667-bed Southwestern Illinois Correctional Center in St. Clair County. For FY 2008, the Governor is expanding the Sheridan Correctional Center from 950 offenders to its full capacity of 1,300 offenders, with 200 of those spaces to be used for another Meth Unit. Inmates in both programs will not only have access to intensive prison-based drug treatment programs, vocational training, job preparation and mental health services, but their treatment will continue upon completion of their sentence under a highly supervised transition back to their communities.
SB 274 goes into effect January 1, 2008.