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December 17, 2004

Meth Lab Problems -- upstate New York & Humboldt County, California

Methamphetamine reports from two cities yesterday illustrate one of the harmful effects drug prohibition has on the environment. News 10 Now in Syracuse and Newswatch 50 in Watertown, upstate New York, reported that Jefferson County Haz-Mat officials were cleaning up 20 gallons of anhydrous ammonia illegally dumped in Watertown, they suspect as part of a meth lab operation. In Eureka, California, The Times-Standard covered a presentation by Humboldt County's environmental health director on the environmental damage meth labs are causing in the county.

Media tend not to question the blame that officials place on meth lab operators for problems like chemical dumping from meth labs, and that was the case with these three reports. But of course the true story is more complex. Yes, those who dump toxins into the environment are culpable for doing so. But methamphetamine is a schedule II drug that is used in medicine, and other extremely similar substances such as Ritalin are used commonly and widely. Why is that environmental problems are not widely reported from the legal manufacturer of Ritalin or prescription methamphetamine?

Because legally manufactured drugs are produced by legitimate businesses that have to play by society's rules or risk civil or criminal sanctions. Whereas illegal meth manufacturers are already risking heavy prison time. They have no incentive to safeguard the environment, and furthermore they have a strong incentive to dispose of their excess materials as quickly and secretly as they can, to reduce the chances of getting caught with them. So the root cause of meth lab pollution is not the people running the meth labs, it's prohibition of meth.

Perhaps some of our Syracuse friends from the group ReconsiDer: Forum on Drug Policy will comment for us. In the meantime, feel free to send your comments to the Times-Standard, Newswatch 50 and News 10 Now.

- Dave Borden, DRCNet

Posted by dborden725 at December 17, 2004 03:45 AM

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Here's a relevant mapinc letter:

US OK: PUB LTE: Controlled Drugs Are Out of Control

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v04/n1774/a02.html
Newshawk: Nicolas Eyle
Pubdate: Thu, 09 Dec 2004
Source: Muskogee Daily Phoenix (OK)


To the Editors,

With all the recent press about the methamphetamine problem I think a little background might be helpful in deciding what to do about it. First of all we should be aware that meth was completely legal in America, available without prescription, over the counter, at any pharmacy until 1954. I don't recall hearing of any of these problems then. Why? What has changed?

Were there people who abused meth before 1954? Of course. Did those folks wreak havoc on the environment by dumping the toxic chemicals they used to make the stuff in our streams? No.Why? Because it was made by big drug companies who were regulated and controlled by the government.For the most part they disposed of their waste products in approved ways.

Did those early meth users shoot each other over their black market drug deal disputes? No. Why? Because there was no black market... remember, any adult who wanted it could legally go buy it at the local drugstore.

With such easy availability was there a big problem with amphetamine abuse? Not according to the AMA at the time. They objected to the prohibition of amphetamine.

So what is the cause of our recent problems with this drug? The problem is not actually with the drug itself but with the way we chose to handle the drug.Prohibition creates a violent black market, does not recognize age restrictions on sales, and does not address purity or dose controls or environmental concerns.We've chosen to turn those issues over to the criminals.

Why we call these illegal drugs "Controlled substances" when we don't seem able to control them enough to keep them out of our prisons or out of the hands of our children is beyond me. It's time to start being smart on crime, not just pretending to be tough on crime. Legalize, regulate, and control these currently illegal drugs. It's time to stop pretending we're getting somewhere by prohibiting them.
Nicolas Eyle

Syracuse, NY.


MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin

Posted by: jeff at December 17, 2004 12:06 PM

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