Remember the Smurfs? Those blue-colored cartoon characters? Now drug dealers who make methamphetamine, have adopted a process called "smurfing" to circumvent laws which are supposed to regulate the sales of the legal, over-the-counter drug used as the primary ingredient in meth.
When we reported previously on the meth epidemic, it was to tell you about a new way of manufacture: the one pot method, done in a two liter soda bottle.
Now investigators and lawmakers want to further tighten regulations on the sale of pseudophedrine. They say it may be the only way to continue fighting the meth epidemic.
In order to make a batch of so called shake and bake meth, the method NEWS7 profiled in May, you need four, 96-count packages of Sudafed or its generic version. That's more than 11 grams of pseudoephedrine; more than any single person can legally buy in a month. But get some of your friends together, walk to the local drug store, buy one pack each, and in less than an hour you can buy enough to make a batch of meth completely legally
"From a law enforcement perspective if we could shoot for the moon," says Virginia State Police first sergeant Ken Keesee. Then our ultimate goal would be to eliminate pseudoephedrine minus a prescription."
That would prevent the mass pseudoephedrine buying process, known as "smurfing." The "Papa Smurf"in charge of cooking the drug needs as much as he can get.
"The manufacturers are more interested in getting Sudafed from their customers in exchange for the product than money," says Martinsville senator Roscoe Reynolds (D- 20th District.)
Two states have made pseudoephedrine, prescription only: Mississippi did it just last year. Oregon passed a similar law in 2005. It saw meth labs virtually disappear. Down from nearly 500 in 2004 to fewer than 10 last year.
But here in Virginia that idea failed in the last legislative session in Richmond.
Senator Reynolds knew it would be tough to pass. He introduced his bill last January, making pseduoephedrine only available by prescription. But when he introduced it in a subcommittee, it was unanimously voted down.
"They all voted to in effect kill the legislation and you would have to ask them about what their thinking was," he says.
Roanoke senator John Edwards was one member of that subcommittee.
"Why would we want to require a prescription for something that's so commonly used? Make it more difficult for people to get pseudoephedrine," he says.
So now other options are on the table.
"We started thinking, 'let's look at an alternative,' and the Kentucky model, which is what were studying right now is perhaps a model we can use when we get back to the general assembly this winter," he says.
That model includes electronic monitoring between pharmacies of pseudoephedrine sales, using new software which allows for better communication to try and curb "smurfing"
A report to House and Senate members on different methods for controlling pseudophedrine sales will be out later this year.
Lexington delegate Ben Cline is chair of the Joint Committee on Healthcare that is studying options for pseudoephedrine control.
It's a good bet some new legislation will be introduced because lawmakers and law enforcement agree something needs to change to stop the growing meth resurgence.