TULSA - Tulsa County D.A. Tim Harris says he has a "magic bullet" that could go a long way toward solving what has become one of Tulsa's biggest problems: an epidemic of illegal meth labs which have led the city to be dubbed the "meth capital of the world."
That nickname was cemented this week when a national study came out showing Tulsa County had more contaminated meth labs than any other county in the United States since 2004.
Harris and other top lawmen say the solution is simple.
They want medications containing pseudoephedrine, an important ingredient used in making methamphetine, to be available by prescription only.
Last year, the Oklahoma legislature failed to even bring the question to the floor for debate, which angered Harris.
He told KRMG "I think I know what the magic bullet is and they won't even debate it."
He says taxpayers are only dimly aware of the massive toll the meth epidemic is taking.
"All the tax dollars that we're using to prosecute crime in the criminal justice system, with law enforcement, police and sheriffs, we would have more money to go after really, really bad guys instead of having to spend our money fighting this" if the meth problem could be tackled.
"This is this insidious cancer that is eating away at the fabric of this community and we've got to figure out how to fight it."
He says there are other costs, including children in foster care, remediation of contaminated property, health problems suffered by police and firefighters exposed to dangerous chemicals...and the list goes on, he says, "all the adverse effects on law enforcement and firefighters and EMTs and everybody who's having to deal with this on a daily basis."
He added, "With people dying and the criminal justice system being absolutely overwhelmed with the number of cases coming in, people are paying for this in ways that they haven't even calculated."
Some local pharmacies, like GenScripts, no longer even carry products which contain pseudoephedrine.
Katy Jones, a pharmacist, tells KRMG "we don't actually sell that, we use phenylephrine, because it can't be used in the meth."
A new law adding Oklahoma pharmacies to a multi-state registry for pseudoephedrine purchases went into effect Jan. 1, but Harris and other lawmen tell KRMG the registries are too easy to skirt by the use of "smurfs," people who buy the drugs two or three boxes at a time then sell them to the meth makers.
Harris adds he has hard evidence that making pseudoephedrine a prescription drug does work to curtail crime.
"After Oregon made pseudoephedrine a prescription-only, they had a 50-year low in overall crime in two years," he told KRMG.