December 05, 2006

Senate Approves New Efforts to Fight Oregon's Growing Meth Problem

Wyden, Smith championed legislation to curb use, distribution of deadly drugthrough increased law enforcement, public education campaigns;legislation does not preempt tougher state laws to combat meth use

Washington, DC - U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) today announced that the U.S. Senate has approved legislation they championed to stop the creation, distribution and use of methamphetamine. The Combat Meth Act, which Wyden and Smith cosponsored along with U.S. Senators Jim Talent (R-Mo.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), has been included as part of the Fiscal Year 2006 Commerce, Justice Science (CJS) Appropriations legislation. The CJS appropriations bill now moves to a conference committee to work out differences between it and the House version of the bill. The Combat Meth legislation will provide resources and tools to help law enforcement officials and prosecutors to pursue and punish producers and distributors of meth, increase community awareness of the meth problem, and establish new treatment options. The Oregon Department of Human Services has reported that meth use is the biggest drug problem facing Oregon child welfare today. Meth is the second-most treated drug addiction among Oregon teens. "The deadly problem of meth is eating away at the social fabric of our state, and today's action by the Senate is a big step forward in rebuilding that fabric in a variety of ways," said Wyden. "Fighting meth use and distribution requires a multi-pronged approach, and the Federal government needs to do its part to support the good work of communities throughout Oregon to make headway in fighting this pernicious epidemic." "Meth and its traffic have proven to be as infectious as they are corrosive," said Smith. "By preventing the production and movement of Meth, communities can begin taking back the neighborhoods, schools and families that have been ravaged by the addiction." In July, Wyden and Smith worked with their colleagues on the Judiciary Committee to support changes to the original Combat Meth Act to ensure that the bill, as passed today, would not preempt tougher state laws restricting access to cold medicines containing methamphetamine precursors. Methamphetamine is one of the most deadly, fiercely addictive and rapidly spreading drugs in the United States. During the past decade, while law enforcement officers continue to close record numbers of clandestine labs, methamphetamine use in communities has increased by as much as 300 percent. The Combat Meth Act makes critical funding available to states, including Oregon, for equipment, training for law enforcement agents and prosecutors to bring legal action against meth offenders and clean-up meth labs. It also provides treatment grants for those affected by this dangerous drug. Specifically, the legislation approved today does the following: • Provides an additional $15 million under the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program to train state and local law enforcement to investigate and lock up methamphetamine offenders, and to expand the methamphetamine "hot spots" program to include personnel and equipment for enforcement, prosecution and environmental clean-up. • Provides $5 million to hire additional Federal prosecutors and train local prosecutors in state and Federal meth laws and cross-designate them as Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys, allowing them to bring legal action against "meth cooks" and traffickers in Federal courts under tougher guidelines. • Amends the Controlled Substances Act to appropriately limit and record the sale of medicines containing pseudoephedrine by placing them behind the pharmacy counter. • Provides $5 million for states and businesses that legally sell ingredients used to cook meth, to help monitor purchases of methamphetamine precursors (pseudoephedrine) and to provide training expenses and technical assistance for law enforcement personnel and employees of businesses which lawfully sell substances which may be used to make meth. • Provides $5 million in grant funding for "Drug-Endangered Children rapid response teams" to promote collaboration among Federal, state, and local agencies to assist and educate children who have been affected by the production of methamphetamine. In 2002, 109 children were removed from Oregon homes with meth labs; 42 percent of them were ages 6 or younger. About 50 percent of the children taken out of meth labs test positive for meth themselves. • Authorizes the creation of a Methamphetamine Research, Training and Technical Assistance Center that will research effective treatments for meth abuse and disseminate information and technical assistance to states and private entities on how to improve current treatment methods.