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Thursday, January 24, 2008

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 Labs
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.

Good politics, albeit a little late perhaps.

Comments (34)

If we wanted a reactive AG here, Macpherson would be our guy - following in the footsteps of our current one - the stereotype, I think.

What to do about the methedemic? Death penalty.

I'm a normally liberal guy who opposes capital punishment, but I'm willing to make an exception for meth freaks. It seems they already are zombies, anyway. A person who turns public art objects into scrap metal or steals the copper wires out of street lights to temporarily satisfy a craving no longer has a soul. Those crimes have been in the news lately, but the real toll is in human lives, particularly children. If meth addicts don't destroy themselves, they are very likely to destroy someone else.

I'm a normally liberal guy who opposes capital punishment, but I'm willing to make an exception for meth freaks

thankfully, the hundreds who get off meth each year and go on to lead fruitful lives escaped government sanctioned killing.

i'll lob in a grenade here: death penalty doesn't work, never has. behold Texas, where the line for execution grows longer each year.

Ahh, MacPherson strikes again.

His great anti meth crusade had two immediate reslts:

1. Requiring 'scripts for pseudoephedrine based antihisamines
made it impossible for large nmbers of Oregon's uninsured workig poor to treat cold symptome wihout an unaffordable DRs visit and an unafforable pharmacy visit; and ,

2. Concentrated meth production into foreign based super labs and international smugglers who already had smuggling and distribution networks in place. Result was purer, more dangerous, meth at higher prices. Almost a Cheneyesque
effect of industry concentration and higher prices.

Are you guys sure the little rich Havard lawyer from Miller Nash isn't a Repugnican?

Are you guys sure the little rich Havard lawyer from Miller Nash isn't a Repugnican?

My thoughts exactly.

I think he's from Stoel, Rives, not Miller, Nash.

Good politics, albeit a little late perhaps.

Really? Can someone tell me what Kroger has done, in the state of Oregon, regarding Meth? Right now he is talk talk talk and Macpherson has been action action action. Macpherson freely admits that more work needs to be done. Kroger needs to put down his big stick and actually do something in this state before I can take him seriously as a statewide office candidate.

How is Macpherson going to make the fed adopt his plan?

Its nice he is finally noticing that their are actual problems in the state that need fixing, even if the is taking Kroger's platform.

P.S. Its Stoel Rives and Georgetown law, Harvard was his undergrad (Kroger is the Harvard law).

even if the is taking Kroger's platform.

I am pretty sure Macpherson didn't need John Kroger to tell him that there is a Meth problem in the state of Oregon. It's a no-brainer. Macpherson has said that the shutting down of labs in the state is an important step in the fight against Meth, not the end all be all. Again, his experience and leadership on this Oregon problem far outweighs Kroger's in this state.

The old Bush policy BS the public and they'll buy into anything. Loss of freedoms, a phony war, and that god awful drug business. Ol' Mac is doing the same old BS, will Oregon voters buy into it? Probably. Great hair can get you elected.
Seems more money is lost in enforcement than in the drug dealing.
Wow! A brand new industry.


You overplay Macpherson's record. The guy has some wins but he was not exactly a super-dynamo. Even his signature issue (Measure 49), was a drafting thing - he did not pass it, the voters did. Macpherson plays nice with others and is a mostly nondescript suburban liberal (with some big exceptions like PGE). The problem is that he is not exactly a self-starter. On meth, the Gov. had to get him going in the legislature and on the trail it took 6 months of Kroger talking about the issue before Macpherson bothered to email a plan to people - and his plan is basically cut and past from Kroger's stump speech. Similarly, on land use, Macpherson only got going after voters twice passed a really bad land use system. So far, Macpherson has not had a lot of ideas, and he has not appeared very interested in having some in the near future. Instead he goes negative at every opportunity. He may have done some things in the past, but he is running for AG, not state historian, so it is the future that counts.

Ephedrine is one of many antihistamines. It seems to me that given alternative remedies, this precursor to meth should be barred from purchase nationwide. Good job Mac. I do not fault any candidate for attending a top notch school or being affiliated with a top tier law firm. Neither of our AG candidates can be seriously assailed based on education or experience. I do appreciate the more nuanced critique of their stance on issues. Perhaps we could kick the debate up a notch?

Weird. KOL argues that Macpherson is the one aping Kroger's "platform", when it's Macpherson who has actually done something about the meth epidemic.

Maybe you didn't read Jack's post above.

I'll excerpt one relevant paragraph.

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.

You see, Macpherson may have been behind Kroger on sending out press releases during this current campaign cycle -- but he was actually doing something about it over the last few years.

[Full disclosure: My company built Macpherson's website, but I speak only for myself.]

Kari, you wouldn't "speak only for myself" against a client -- would you?


I think you miss the point. Funding pre-existing programs (drug courts, prison treatment) is not being a leader - it is simply not making things worse. Being a leader would be taking steps to keep people out of the system in the first place. Kroger’s whole argument about drug treatment is that our system is currently broken because the only way to get treatment is to go to prison (or jail) because of the limited alternative treatment options.

This goes back to what I was saying before, Macpherson is fine going with the flow and doing the right thing, but he does not show initiative in creating new policies.

If Macpherson would have "led" the charge to stop giving driver's licenses to Meth smuggling illegal aliens, along with or instead of, requiring a doctor's prescription to buy pseudo-ephedrinehe
he mightlook good right now.

I applaud Greg for following John Kroger's lead. I remember at their debate a few weeks back. Greg admitted the War on Drugs was not working after praising his own efforts to continue the WOD's strategy. Kicking out home meth producers does nothing to deal with the root of the problem and only shifts production to Mexico where stronger meth is produced. John Kroger is right, Drug Treatment is the only way to deal with the cause of the meth problem. John Kroger will be a better attorney general because he leads on the issues and Greg follows attempting to mask the issues so that he can run on his nativist platform.

John has done tremendous work for Oregon and American's in all states. John has worked tirelessly at the national and local level to strengthen the Democratic party. He has worked tirelessly to put drug kingpins and mafia bosses behind bars. He has worked tirelessly to prosecute the crooks at Enron, an Oregon Corporation, who was defended by Greg's law firm, Stoel Rives. And he has inspired a new class of progressive and active Oregon lawyers. I am glad to see John is able to lead on the issues in the AG's race and steer the debate to the issues that are important for Oregon's future. I hope if John can convince Greg to follow his lead, that the Oregon legislature and politicians will do the same.

For those who have not read it, Ben Wallace-Well's article on what went wrong with the War on Drugs has a nice summary of why meth became more prominent in the United States.

Me, I'm not accepting the canard that taking cold medicines off the shelf magically nuked the problem of meth labs or meth addiction. It's eyewash.

"War on Drugs"?

When was that? I must have missed the whole thing. And I was in HS in the 60s.

All I ever saw was a faux war. The border should have been closed decades ago for that reason alone.
Like you do when you're fighting a real war.
Oh wait a minute. We are in a real war now and our electeds stlll haven't closed the border.

The drug war? The war that wasn't.

When are you folks going to pick up on the fact that a pound of Meth will buy any Mexican Criminal an A ticket ride into the US and they are coming here by the thousands every day and now more with them losing the local lab competition?

The dam is leaking and dry sponges won't help.


The fact that a medically uninsured person can't go into a Walgreens and spend $8 for OTC relief from sinusitis without the time and expense of a doctor's prescription is ridiculous.

And completely out of touch with the real-life needs of the law-abiding lower class.

Now this guy wants to expand the program nationwide, even as he admits "But Oregon still has a big meth problem"?

Ephedrine is one of many antihistamines.

But the only one that works for me and my chronic allergies. So I just go up to the Walmart in Vancouver and buy it for $4 per box. No 'script needed.

Seems the fed's program works too, you can only buy like 9 grams a month or something. And you have to give your drivers license number and sign your name to get it from the pharmacist. I dont see why Oregon needs such a stupid program. its a real pain the ass.

I am also ready to advocate for an exception for meth addicts, but not the death penalty. As previous posters have pointed out, focusing on production and sale has had limited success. In addition to identity theft, and quality of life crimes such as petty theft, the thefts of infrastructure materials such as guardrails, copper wire etc. not only cost us money and inconvenience us, but more importantly endanger us every day. Although I am on the whole opposed to mandatory sentencing in criminal cases, I think that use or possession of meth should result in mandatory prison time and treatment. Open Wapato jail, and put it to good use.

Danger to the public is greater than most know as the thieves also strip wires from railroad signal and control systems including crossing gates and alarms.

The news people will report the theft of wires from phone lines and street lights but they won't say a word about the least protected of all and that the railroads.

Now you better understand the increase in use of rail engine horns.

Rab says that some of the comments overstate Rep. Macpherson's record. Given that Mr. Kroger has NO political record, that criticism is pretty funny.

Kroger does have a political record, what he does not have is a legislative record. There is a big difference. The fact of the matter is that Macpherson does have an okay, but not great legislative record. He can be proud of drafting 49, but he did not pass it, voters did. He can be proud of funding pre-existing treatment programs but he was not the point man on the issue and he did not take steps to actually fix the problem. Finally, he has some serious questions about PGE that he will need to answer at some point.

Kroger has a political record? If by that, you mean that he voted in elections, OK. Then I have a political record, too. Or if you think that a political record is saying what you think about politics, then everyone who comments on blogs has a political record. I think a political record (and really, the record that you thought was overstated by Rep. Macpherson) is positions that one takes while in elected office; and I think the absence of a political record is a good reason (not necessarily a dispositive reason) to vote against a candidate.

Kroger has a political record because he has a history of working on political campaigns (and I am not talking about just volunteering), time in Treasury Department under Clinton, time working for the state Party, etc.

You are confusing a legislative record with a political record. It is true, Kroger never held a legislative office (though he did work for the Democratic leadership in Congress), so he cannot have a legislative record. So what? Legislative experience is good, but it is not inherently qualifying for the office of Attorney General. Macpherson's problem is that he only talks about what he did, he never talks about what he will do. The AG office is not a gold watch for services rendered. This election is about the future of Oregon, and in this regard Macpherson has come up short.

Abe hit the nail on the head. As long as the area is friendly to illegal aliens, you'll find a non-trivial number of folks that are willing to commit illegal acts. Surprise..!! Mule-ing pound after pound of meth and coke is currently a low risk, high profit path for those willing to break the law.

Tough immigration enforcement with real consequences will make a difference. Anything less is window dressing and ignores the real issue.

Thanks, Rep. Macpherson, for making me feel like a criminal when I just want to alleviate cold symptoms. By the way, I don't see such a great improvement in the meth problem - that legislation just helped people feel like they were doing something about the problem ("cut off the source" - my ass! - we all know they can just get that ingredient elsewhere), and now I just feel more miserable when I get sick.

What I'd like to know is how much it is costing in lost productivity for sick people to go to the doctor (thereby exposing other people to the virus) and get a prescription because of that stupid legislation? Law-abiding citizens are inconvenienced while meth addicts still do their thing.

So, yeah, thanks for your great leadership on that.

I support Macpherson because he has a wide range of legal experience (at Jack's former, fancy firm), but Kroger has only criminal law experience and expertise. The criminal law is the part of the AG's job that gets the press, but most of the job involves the boring stuff: land use, parks, employee benefits for state police, etc. Which in the end is was has the long-term impact. I don't agree with everything (replacing mom & pop meth labs with Mexican superlabs is a little bit of an improvement, but not much).

You are wrong about Kroger's policy experience. He was a deputy in Bill Clinton's policy workshop in '92 and worked at Treasury after the campaign. At Lewis Clark he teaches more than just criminal law classes. He has put forth plans for environmental protection, reforming child support payments, and protection of civil rights. This is why he has been endorsed by the Sierra Club, the Carpenters Union, and Kitzhaber (among others).

Macpherson's legal work is fairly limited to employee benefits and his signature accomplishment in the legislature, changing PERS benefits, fits into this.

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