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Heroin and cocaine have been grabbing headlines in Medford recently ' including $1 million worth of heroin seized on a bus traveling through town in February ' but they are a long way from topping the drug market here.

"Meth is still king," said Medford police Lt. Brett Johnson.

Johnson, who is a supervisor for the Medford Area Drug and Gang Enforcement team, makes his point by dumping a pile of crystal shards on a table in the department's evidence room.

This batch of methamphetamine was seized from a suspect who has since been convicted on felony drug charges.

"There's probably just over a gram in this one bag," Johnson said. "Check out the quality of this stuff. You know how gasoline comes in regular and premium? This is premium."

Johnson puts on plastic gloves and holds up a large wedge of high-end meth. The shards resemble bits of foggy glass.

"We never used to see this kind of meth in the valley," he said. "It used to be the powder stuff that was low quality."

Much of that particular brand of meth was created in grimy labs across the state. Meth "chemists" would combine an array of chemicals, some of which could unclog your bathroom drain, with pseudoephedrine, an over-the-counter cold medicine.

The result would be a white or brown powder that turned into sludge in the chamber of a meth pipe.

However, a 2005 law calling for the regulation of pseudoephedrine sounded the death knell for meth labs in Oregon.

Pills containing pseudoephedrine have been available by request only and kept behind pharmacy counters since July 2006.

A government-issued identification card, such as a driver's license, is required to buy it.

One meth lab has been found in Jackson County in recent years ' a small lab discovered earlier this year on a shabby property near Sams Valley.

"It could have been three or four years old," Johnson said. "It's not worth doing anymore."

Just because the labs are gone doesn't mean the market for meth has disappeared.

Never ones to pass up on a lucrative business venture, large drug cartels based in Mexico have filled the void left by the pseudoephedrine law.

These "super labs," as Johnson calls them, produce most of the meth moving up and down Interstate 5.

"Most of what we see comes from south of the border," Johnson said. "And it's all crystal, not powder."

In 2011, MADGE seized about 22 pounds of meth ' a 134 percent increase from the previous year.

Meth busts come in all sizes.

Medford police Officer Ernie Whiteman Jr. works the weekend graveyard shift. He deals mostly with drunken drivers and people who have had a few too many and become feisty outside the bars.

As Whiteman cruised Riverside Avenue on a recent night, he recalled an instance not long ago when he pulled up beside a driver who was acting erratically behind the steering wheel.

"He was jerking back and forth and had a lot of exaggerated movements," Whiteman said. "I pulled him over and he failed the (sobriety) test. He said he hadn't been drinking, but had done a bunch of meth before getting behind the wheel."