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Recent meth-lab busts have authorities worried

Restrictions on ingredients had slowed the making of the methamphetamine

By Janice Gregorson

gregor@postbulletin.com

The once disappearing toxic meth lab might be making a comeback if recent area drug busts are any indication.

For Rochester police Sgt. Jeff Stilwill, who heads the department’s narcotics unit, it means either the imported supply of meth has decreased or people are finding a way to get around a state law and get their hands on a key ingredient needed to make the illegal drug.

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Two Rochester residents were arraigned in Olmsted District Court on Friday on charges stemming from a meth lab drug bust and search warrants executed at two city homes Tuesday. It marks the first time since March 2005 that an active meth lab was found in a Rochester residence.

According to the criminal complaints, Scott Larry Rasmussen, 30, 805 Fourth Ave. N.W., had been making meth in the basement of his residence, began "smoking up" his house and moved it to the bathroom of the home of Rikki Lynn Buenvenida, 29, 1119 Seventh Ave. S.W., who has four small children. Rasmussen and Buenvenida face felony charges.

Earlier this week, there was a meth lab bust in Goodhue County, resulting in numerous arrests.

Statewide, there has been an increase in the use of the illegal drug in the past decade. For several years, people were making it in clandestine labs set up in homes, vehicles, sheds, motel rooms and tucked away in wooded areas.

The highest number of meth labs were reported in 2003, with more than 500 labs and toxic chemical dumps and thefts of anhydrous ammonia reported across the state.

But those numbers took a sharp downturn after state lawmakers passed legislation in 2005 requiring that ephedrine- and pseudoephedrine-containing drugs — a key ingredient to make meth — be put behind pharmacy counters. Buyers are now required to sign a log and show a photo ID before buying the drugs.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the law is largely responsible for the dramatic drop in the number of meth labs in the state. In 2005, there were only 128 reported meth production events in the state, and 85 percent of those were before the new legislation took effect. Last year, there were only 74 in the state reported to the Department of Health.

Olmsted County was the first in the state to develop an ordinance spelling out cleanup operations when a meth lab is found in a residence. Under the ordinance, residences contaminated by meth labs cannot be occupied until properly cleaned.

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