Greg Mac plays meth card
One of the things that John Kroger talks about right off the top in his race for Oregon attorney general is that he'll be tough on methamphetamine. So far out in front has he been on that theme that he's got some people wondering whether his opponent in the Democratic primary, Greg Macpherson, really has much to say about it. Today Mac sent around an e-mail message showing his interest in the problem:
Oregon Shuts Down Meth LabsGood politics, albeit a little late perhaps.
Focus Should Shift to Traffickers
Just four years ago, home meth labs were one of the biggest public safety threats we faced in Oregon. All across the state, addicts were cooking meth in rental houses and apartments, contaminating the structures and destroying communities. Neighbors watched helplessly as neglected children wandered the streets while their addicted parents cooked, sold, and consumed meth. And property values dropped because of illegal drug traffic.
At the time, Oregon law enforcement was busting over 40 home labs per month. But that wasn't really solving the problem, because new labs would immediately replace the ones that were shut down. We had to cut off the source.
Today, we can celebrate the progress we've made. But the job of eradicating meth isn't done. We have to keep the pressure on.
The progress came because in 2005 I joined with three other Judiciary Committee colleagues and Governor Kulongoski to pass a first-in-the-nation law that has virtually shut down home meth labs inside the state. The law bans over-the-counter sales of pseudo-ephedrine, the key ingredient used to make meth.
Until then, addicts were buying or stealing off store shelves various cold and allergy remedies that use pseudo-ephedrine as a decongestant.
Some urged us to enact long mandatory prison sentences for cooking meth, following the approach of the federal War on Drugs. But no one I know thinks the feds are winning the War on Drugs. We needed a better solution - prevention, not just more prisons.
The state had already placed pseudo-ephedrine behind store counters months earlier. But then the four of us went "smurfing," each buying the maximum legal amount of pseudo-ephedrine in several stores near the Capitol. In about an hour we bought enough to keep a meth addict going for a couple of months, proving that behind-the-counter alone was not enough.
So we proposed the toughest law in the country, requiring a doctor's prescription to buy pseudo- ephedrine. Big drug companies, fearing a loss of sales, sent lobbyists to Oregon to try to stop it. But we stood our ground and the law was passed. Our meth law also funded drug courts, which supervise addicted offenders so they get clean and stay clean, and authorized new drug treatment programs inside the state prison system.
The result has been dramatic. Without access to pseudo-ephedrine, local meth labs disappeared. In 2007, Oregon law enforcement found just 18 home labs (down from 448 in 2004).
But as I said, the job's not done. Neighborhoods are safer because local meth labs have been shut down. But Oregon still has a big meth problem.
Now it's being brought in from labs in other states and in Mexico, some big and some small. So we need to do three things:
First, local prevention. We must continue to fund drug courts and provide treatment to addicted offenders.
Second, apply Oregon's innovations at the national level. Requiring prescriptions for pseudo-ephedrine works. The federal government should follow our approach, which would shut down the vast majority of the home labs, many of which are currently supplying addicts in Oregon. It also should restrict imports of pseudo-ephedrine from Asia because too much of it ends up cooked into meth.
Finally, we need to step up enforcement against big traffickers from Mexico. The Oregon State Police should be given more resources to go after drug operations that move around the state when chased by local police.
We're making progress against meth. But there's still a lot more to be done.