Your house was probably not a meth lab

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘speedypete312’

As a recent homebuyer, the story of the Bristol, PA couple who bought their first home only to discover that it had previously been a meth lab is my personal nightmare. They discovered only too late that the DEA maintains a registry of former “clandestine laboratories,” reported by local law enforcement agencies, that lists their house as a place where a lab had been found.

Tom and I weren’t too worried about our house- it had been gutted and renovated before we moved in, and our neighbors have been honest (though still respectful) about the difficulties of the previous occupant. We’re pretty certain if “she cooked meth in the basement” had been one of them, they’d have mentioned it by now, just as the Bristol couple’s neighbor did. But in the midst of home inspection, appraisal, and all the other hoops to jump through to buy a house, it had never occurred to us that this is something buyers should be concerned about.

Though confident about the non-toxicity of our house, Tom strolled on over to the National Clandestine Laboratory Register (NCLR) to check, only to discover that there are no listings for the District of Columbia. In fact, DC doesn’t even show up on the list of places you can search. Guam? No problem. DC? No way.

I wondered if DC had just chosen not to participate in the registry, but it turns out that DC just does not have a significant methamphetamine problem, with less than a third of a percent of District residents over the age of 12 reporting meth usage in the previous year. According to the DEA, most of the small amount of meth consumed in DC comes from California. Via mail-order, basically. So the reason you can’t find DC meth labs on the NCLR is that there are no DC meth labs. At least, none that law enforcement is aware of.

Think about that next time you’re filling in all your personal info just to buy cold medicine at CVS.

UPDATE: The NCLR responded to our request for comment with the following:

Thank-you for your input regarding the NCLR website page.  I will contact the web people to add the District of Columbia.  Since the advent of the NCLR, there have been no methamphetamine lab seizures from residences in the District. There have been numerous seizures of methamphetamine and other drug lab seizures in the District, but they were discovered in park land etc.

Which, I suppose makes sense- why cook your meth in a lab near your nosy neighbors when we’ve got all these parks here to hide out in?

Tiffany Baxendell Bridge is an Internet enthusiast and an incurable smartass. When not heckling the neighborhood political scene on Twitter, she can be found goofing off with her ukulele, Bollywood dancing, or obsessing about cult TV. She is That Woman With the Baby In the Bar.

Tiffany lives in Brookland with her husband Tom, son Charlie, and two high-maintenance cats. Read why Tiffany loves DC.

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4 thoughts on “Your house was probably not a meth lab

  1. On the last Youth Risk Behavior Survey, literally 10% of gay teenagers (kids ages 14-18) reported having used crystal meth. Demand may currently be limited, but if way more kids are using it than adults it can only grow. There may not be meth labs in DC yet, but don’t be surprised if it pops up on the registry before too long.

  2. Without at all minimizing the importance of reducing the use of meth in the gay community, and especially among teenagers, it’s worth pointing out the raw numbers relative to absolute risk. Demographic numbers about sexual orientation can vary pretty widely depending on the means used to collect them, but even the highest estimate place gays at approximately 12-15% of the population. So 10% of 15% of teenagers is still only 1.5% of teenagers, which is not exactly a staggering market demand.

    Of course it’s worth expending the effort to reduce meth usage among teenagers, because they are *people*, using an especially volatile and dangerous substance (and I say this as someone who moderately favors legalization/regulation of a lot of drugs; meth is just bad news). But for the specific and narrow question of whether DC homebuyers need to add “meth testing” to their checklist of tasks to complete before closing, I’m still going to say no, even based on the numbers you cite.

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