Utah is one of the few states in the West that doesn't have a "controlled substance precursor" law. What that means in simple language is a law to keep track of chemicals that might be used to produce illegal drugs.

Because of the lack of such regulation, Utah has become a favorite shopping place for drug dealers who buy large quantities of certain chemicals - as much as 1,000 pounds at a time - and use them in homemade labs to mix, for example, illegal batches of methamphetamine, commonly known as "speed."California drug agents would like Utah to pass a "precursor" law because many of the chemicals purchased in Utah apparently end up in California as illegal drugs.

A precursor law was introduced in the Legislature last year but failed to pass, at least partly because of lobbying by legitimate dealers in chemicals who are making money on the big sales, or who don't want the paperwork involved in expanded government regulation.

A similar measure, HB3, is back again this year, but there is no reason for chemical firms or agents to oppose it this time, since the problem has been overtaken to some degree by federal legislation.

A federal law, due to go into effect this year, requires all chemical companies to provide information to federal officials on sales of 12 chemical substances that can be used to make illegal drugs.

It requires companies to obtain identification of buyers and report that identification and quantity sold to federal drug officials.

The Utah law would mirror this effort, with some minor differences. For example, the state would list the same 12 reportable chemicals as the federal law, plus one more.

The big difference would be that such reports would go directly into the hands of state drug enforcement officials instead of being routed only to the federal bureaucracy.

There is no reason for Utah to have a reputation as a wholesale supplier of illegal drug chemists in the West. Let's make the law as tough and detailed as necessary to discourage drug dealers from shopping here.