Governor signs drug and arson bills

Chris Dunham, PDT Sports Writer

December 21, 2012

Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

Two bills dealing with issues that impact Scioto County are now law. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine joined Governor John Kasich at the Ohio Statehouse Thursday afternoon as the Governor signed two major bills into law that he says will combat methamphetamine and synthetic drug abuse, as well as create an Ohio arson registry.

House Bill 334 allows for additional law enforcement monitoring of purchases and attempted purchases of products that contain pseudoephedrine (PSE). PSE is an ingredient used in many cold and allergy medicines and is also the primary component in the manufacture of methamphetamine. DeWine saide his office worked to add a synthetic drug provision to the bill that toughens previous laws banning synthetic drugs known as bath salts or herbal incense. DeWine said House Bill 334 closes a loophole used by clandestine chemists that gave them the ability to slightly alter the illegal synthetic drug’s components into a new, legal substance.

This month alone, several meth labs have been discovered in the area. This week Misty Hurt and Dustin Carver were arrested on meth production charges. Recently, Greenup County deputies Rick Craft and Cody Fuller were taken to the hospital after being overcome by the fumes from a clandestine meth lab. In that bust Hubert A. Dehart and Pamela S. Dehart were arrested.

Members of area law enforcement say the reason the problem has become a recent one is that over the last dozen years or so, many of the suspects involved in manufacturing methamphetamine have been arrested, convicted and have completed serving their sentences in prison and, according to law enforcement, have been released back into our communities and have now resumed their “homemade” manufacturing of meth.

“It will now be easier for law enforcement to arrest those abusing or selling synthetic drugs like bath salts or herbal incense,” DeWine said. “We also hope that the increased threat of an arrest and jail time will act as a deterrent.”

Senate Bill 70’s arson registry law will require all convicted arson offenders to register with the state, much the same as sex offenders. The Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) will then make that information available to all law enforcement officers through the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway (OHLEG).

In 2010 Scioto County recorded 159 arson fires, 163 in 2011, and so far in 2012, with a week remaining, authorities have investigated 124 arson fires.

“Every time someone intentionally starts a fire they put our residents and our firefighters’ lives at risk, and we must do everything possible to protect our neighbors and first responders,” DeWine said. “The new registry allows OHLEG to alert an officer to a convicted arsonist’s criminal history, which will be tremendously helpful when questioning those in the immediate area of a structure fire.”

The arson registry will be available to law enforcement and arson investigators on July 1, 2013. The synthetic drug provision of House Bill 334 immediately went into place upon signing due to an emergency clause written into the legislation at the recommendation of Attorney General DeWine. The rest of the law will go be implemented in 90 days.

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at flewis@heartlandpublications.com.