Methods for destroying drug evidence vary across the country, according to The Wall Street Journal. Law enforcement officials use facilities including hospital incinerators, foundries and crematories.
There are no uniform rules for burning evidence. Some local governments allow more flexibility than others, the article notes. Waste incinerators that burn pharmaceuticals are covered by federal standards, but those used only to burn illegal drugs are exempt. Many local governments have environmental and safety rules that can apply to destroying drug evidence.
In Ohio, troopers used to destroy thousands of pounds of seized drugs at factories, where they were vaporized in molten steel. That practice ended when companies became concerned the drugs could potentially affect the quality of their product and produce emissions. “If we’re throwing 940 pounds of marijuana into the vat, you know, it flares up,” said Captain David Dicken, of the State Highway Patrol’s Ohio crime laboratory. The agency switched to a paid contract with a company that handles hazardous materials.
Contractors destroy illegal drugs seized by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, or turn them over to other agencies, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which destroys marijuana at incinerators approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The DEA burns other illegal drugs at its labs.
Because of strict environmental regulations in California, law enforcement is supposed to burn illegal drugs at EPA-approved energy plant incinerators. In the Detroit area, state police use a metal forging plant’s furnace. In Pennsylvania, state police burn their own evidence, while in New York, police use an outside contractor. Some authorities in West Virginia use fire pits.