Meth Labs

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Methamphetamine: DEA to Create National Lab Site Registry

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced in a press release last week that it will post the locations of known clandestine meth labs or dump sites across the country. The free public service will help people be aware of possible meth-contaminated sites in their communities, the agency said.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/methlab4.jpg
meth lab
While a handful of states have adopted meth registries, the move by the DEA marks the first national listing of former meth lab sites. The web site will contain addresses reported by state and local law enforcement where chemicals or other items related to meth production were found or dumped. The DEA warns that the list "may not be comprehensive."

"In a cruel twist of fate, people who have never used or manufactured meth have become some of its hardest hit victims after unknowingly buying property contaminated by chemicals and waste generated from a meth lab," said DEA Administrator Karen Tandy. "This registry gives home owners a new tool to help them ensure that their dream house is not a hidden nightmare."

[Ed: It's not a "cruel twist of fate," it's a cruel but predictable consequence of drug prohibition."]

Just Say No to Meth Registries

What sort of criminal offender merits the special distinction of being placed on a public registry? Only the most dangerous, or is it the most demonized? Registries of sex offenders began appearing a few years ago as part of the hysterical response to not an increase in sex crimes, but an increase in publicity about them, driven in part by information technologies that allow the whole country to almost instantaneously watch the latest local outrage with fascinated horror. Who besides baby-rapers is so heinous as to merit inclusion on a registry? Why, that would be tweakers, because we know that meth is nothing but poison and its users dangerous drug fiends deserving no less than the 21st Century version of public shaming that registries are. Beginning with Tennessee, states confronting methamphetamine use and production have begun treating meth cooks like sex offenders. Minnesota, Illinois, and Montana now have registries, too, and bills are pending in six other states, but it doesn’t look like the idea is going to fly in California. The Tri-Valley Herald was on the beat with its "Officials Decry Meth Registry, and staff writer Roman Gokhman deserves some kudos for teasing out the implications of meth registries and talking to officials who recognize them for the feel-good measures they are. The following quotes are taken from the article: "There's more effective ways to combat methamphetamine than public registries," said state Sen. Liz Figeroa, D-Fremont. "You need to go out and educate people. You have to encourage treatments." Figeroa said that taxpayers' money should be used to fight the supply and demand of meth and increase jail sentences, not tell people about former meth manufacturers. "You can't win a war on drugs without getting rid of the demand," she said. Livermore Police Chief Steve Krull said he has not done any research about the registries in other states, but that anything that could result in fewer meth crimes and labs should be looked at. But if the point behind the registry is simply to inform people about their neighbors, "I'm not sure what benefit that would be," Krull said. Critics said the registries serve no real purpose and violate civil rights by punishing a person twice for the same crime. "They served their time and are presumably not a danger to society," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, a national advocate against the country's "war on drugs." "The big drawback is that it makes it difficult for former meth offenders to get their lives back in order," Piper said. He said that money should be spent on treatment and that California is a national example of dealing with meth because of Proposition 36, which offers non-violent offenders a chance at treatment instead of jail time. San Ramon Police Chief Scott Holder agreed. "Why a meth registry?" he asked. "Why not a heroin registry? Why not an alcohol registry?" "That's taking government too far," he said.
Location: 
CA
United States

Home Town Bust

Huron, South Dakota, is nothing special. It's a town of about 12,000 people on the plains of Eastern South Dakota. The biggest employers are the meat packing houses, the railroad, and the hospital. It's nothing special, but it's my home town--as much as anyplace is. I grew up there, I have family there, I own property nearby. I don't spend a lot of time there, bu it's where I register to vote and where I register my vehicle. It's where I was sent to prison for nearly three years over a quarter-pound of marijuana. It holds a special place in my heart.

There was some grim court news out of Huron this week. The local newspaper, the Daily Plainsman, headlined its story Two Found Guilty in Drug Case, but the real story is the absolutely horrendous sentences facing the pair in question. The two got busted for cooking meth in a local residence and were hit with multiple felony counts: possession of meth, manufacture of meth, conspiracy to manufacture meth, as well as a marijuana possession charge thrown in for good measure. One now faces up to 45 years in prison, the other life because of previous offenses. A third woman arrested in the same raids was found guilty last week and faces 55 years. They will undoubtedly be sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

That's the way it happens in Huron. I know one Huron resident who is currently doing a five-year sentence? Was he selling meth? No. Cooking it? No. Conspiring to do the above? No. Holding some in his pocket? No. High on it? No. This guy is sitting in prison for five years because he happened to be in an apartment when it was raided, he was forced to submit a urine sample, and when it came back positive for traces of methamphetamine, he was arrested, convicted, and sentenced for "internal possession."

Meanwhile, the Daily Plainsman regularly runs the outcomes of magistrate court proceedings, where the bad check writers, the drunk drives, and the pot possessors go. I am struck when reading the court cases by the contrast in what happens to drunk drivers and pot smokers. Bizarrely, first time drunk drivers are likely to get 30 days suspended, while pot smokers are likely to get 30 days in jail. Where are the priorities here?This is one small town in the heartland. It's pretty damned harsh on its residents with drug problems, but I fear it is not that unusual. They've been fighting the war on drugs for more than three decades there now. They haven't stopped drug use, of course, but it certainly looks like a nice jobs program for cops, prosecutors, and prison guards.

 

Location: 
Huron, SD
United States

Methamphetamine: One Month in One Texas County Courthouse Opens a Window on the Drug War Version 2.006

If you want a snapshot of the current state of the drug war in the American heartland, Grayson County, Texas, is as good a place as any. Grayson County lies about an hour north of Dallas on US Highway 75 just south of the Oklahoma border. According to the US Census of 2000, the county has a population of 110,000, with some 35,000 people in Sherman, the county seat and largest town. The local economy is dependent on agriculture, manufacturing, and increasingly, the county's role as a drug distribution hub for the Texoma border region of which it is a part. And if last month's 336th District Court case dispositions are any indication, it either has a big methamphetamine problem or a law enforcement apparatus obsessed with finding one.

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quiet street but busy courthouse, thanks to the drug war
According to a list of case dispositions for the month of July compiled by Grayson County Attorney Joe Brown and published in the Sherman Herald-Democrat, 15 of the 31 defendants whose cases were resolved during that period faced methamphetamine charges. One case was a marijuana case, while three others involved cocaine possession or distribution. Of the methamphetamine cases, 11 were for simple possession, three for possession or transport of chemicals used in the manufacture of meth, and one for meth manufacture itself. Of all 19 drug cases, none was for drug sales and only one was for possession with intent to distribute.

336th District Court judges generally came down hard on meth offenders. Of the 11 simple meth possession cases, four got probated prison sentences, three got state jail time (up to two years), and four got sent to prison for sentences ranging from thee to six years and averaging 4 ½ years. The courts were especially tough on people seeking to buy chemicals to home-cook meth, handing out sentences of four, seven, and 10 years. The sole meth manufacturer got only 10 years probation, but he also got a two-year prison sentence for child endangerment.

The judges were also fairly tough on other drug offenders. The one gentlemen charged with marijuana possession in a drug free zone got two years in state jail, while one person convicted of cocaine possession got six years and the other got probation. The sole case of cocaine possession with intent to distribute garnered 10 years for the defendant.

The non-drug cases were a motley crew: One aggravated sexual assault of a child (15 years), one burglary of a habitation (nine years), one boating while intoxicated (three years), one credit card abuse (16 months), one endangering a child (two years), three evading arrest with a motor vehicle (two got two years each, one got probation), one failure to appear (three years), one forgery (two years), one retaliation (probation), and one theft over $1500 (15 months).

Without all those meth cases, the Grayson County Courthouse would be a lot quieter. In 13 of the 15 meth-related cases, there were no other non-drug-related charges, just people choosing an unpopular drug to ingest or try to make at home. Likewise with the other drug cases. Like good burghers everyone in America, the citizens of Grayson County are paying a lot of money to arrest, jail, convict, and imprison a lot of people who weren't doing anything to anybody.

Push Down, Pop Up Even Worse

An article this morning in the Daily Journal in northeast Mississippi reports that efforts to restrict purchase of the chemical components of methamphetamine have caused a reduction in the number of meth labs in Lee County. But don't get too excited: there's just as much meth available in the county now as before. Now, though, it's imported, and the stuff is worse -- it's crystal meth, also known as ice, and according to Sheriff Jim Johnson it's a lot more potent than the stuff people are making locally. Push Down, Pop Up -- as long as there's demand for the drugs, someone will figure out how to supply it, and you may wish for the old supply instead. Prohibition is the cause both of the meth labs and the popularization of more potent and damaging forms of drugs. The only way to get rid of the meth labs is through legalization, and regulation has a much better chance of shifting people away from the hardest stuff like ice than the drug war, which seems to be promoting it. Daily Journal letter to the editor information is online .
Location: 
Tupelo, MS
United States

Drug Czar: "We're winning"

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Oregonian
URL: 
http://www.oregonlive.com/special/oregonian/meth/stories/index.ssf?/base/news/1153450631218210.xml&coll=7

Editorial: Do We Really Want to Help Kids Find the Drug Dealers?

David Borden, Executive Director

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David Borden's usual Thursday evening editing session
One of this week's drug war news items is a legislative effort in the state of Maine to create a committee to study the possibility of a registry, accessible to the general public, of people who have been convicted repeatedly of drug offenses. Supporters have portrayed the idea as a way to help families protect their children from people in Maine who may want to provide drugs to them.

Even using drug war logic (generally a bad idea), this idea fails pretty decisively. Most kids don't start using drugs because they are offered them by professional dealers. Most kids start using drugs because they are offered them by other kids -- kids who are providing either for social reasons or because they have gotten involved in the criminal enterprise, but in either case not the repeatedly convicted adults who would pop up on the state's web site. It's also important to remember that most drug dealers never get caught, hence will never appear in the registry for that reason.

So while a registry would enable parents to be aware of some fraction of the serious drug dealers out there, it will miss (and perhaps divert attention from) the more common pathways through which drugs might get into the hands of their children. Furthermore, the same unstoppable economic process that turns any bust of a dealer into a job opportunity for new dealers, must also apply, at least partly, to any repeat dealers who lose business because some parents were able to keep their children clear of any given dealer -- if the kids are determined or even just willing, they'll wind up getting their drugs from someone else.

Most glaring, however, is an argument that was pointed out in a "practice" blog post by a member of our staff, Scott Morgan, on our soon-to-be-released new web site. Scott used a similar registry in Tennessee, limited to methamphetamine offenders, to show how usable it would be (perhaps is) to any young people, in any given county in the state, wishing to find leads on people in their county who might be able to sell them meth or other drugs -- an outcome exactly the opposite of what the registry purports to want to prevent.

The main difference (no pun intended) between Tennessee's registry and Maine's proposed registry, other than Maine's including all illegal drugs, is that Maine's is to be limited to "habitual" drug offenders, people who have been convicted of drug dealing multiple times. But repeat offenders are exactly the people who are the most likely to offend yet again -- the most usable listings for kids or others wanting to locate drug sellers conveniently narrowed down. But widening the registry to include all drug offenders won't help either -- because increasing the number of listings would also increase the registry's usability to kids wanting to find dealers. Either way you can't get around the idea that a drug offender registry is effectively a taxpayer-subsidized advertising campaign supporting drug dealing.

In the end, we must return to the issue that the primary way young people start to get involved in drug use is through the influence of other kids -- in many instances buying the drugs from other kids, in the schools. This is one of the factors that has led to an increased prevalence of handguns in schools -- where the underground market goes, so also tend to go weapons.

But it need not be that way. While use of alcohol by minors is a big issue (alcohol is just as much of a drug as any of the others, and a rather destructive one), at least kids are not buying it from other kids, in the school, from people who carry guns. That situation exists with the illegal drugs precisely because we have banned them. With drug legalization, the criminal problems associated with the trade in drugs would largely vanish -- no more armed drug trade in the schools, no more turf wars or open air markets.

And while the harm from the use of the drugs themselves will not simply disappear when prohibition is ended, the sheer level of destructiveness currently associated with addiction in particular would also drop substantially, as users would no longer be subject to the random impurities, and fluctuations in purity, that currently lead to poisonings and overdoses; and the high street prices drugs currently have would also drop, enabling many if not most addicts who are now driven to extreme behaviors like theft and prostitution to get the money to buy drugs to at least afford the habit through legal means of earning. Escalating the failed policy of prohibition won't accomplish this.

In the meanwhile let's at least cool it with these hare-brained ideas like drug offender registries. The continued stigmatization of people who have already been punished ought to be enough reason. But if it's not, the incredibly poor logic behind this idea ought to be. Do we really want to help kids find the drug dealers? I don't.

LA-Area Methamphetamine Lab Illustrates Need for Legalization

CBS channel 2 in Los Angeles reported that the LAPD had arrested five people for operating a methamphetamine lab in Sylmar. A haz-mat crew was sent out to start the cleanup, and police officers have alleged that the operators dumped their chemicals on the outside instead of using the trash and that the property is therefore highly contaminated. If meth were legal, it would be manufactured by licensed pharmaceutical corporations that know how to properly handle chemicals. Inspectors could monitor the operations to ensure compliance with the applicable regulations. And there wouldn't be the occasional gunfire between rival manufacturers or between suspects and police who are trying to arrest them (not that that happened in this case). Whatever one thinks about meth and its effects on people, at a minimum everyone should admit that we wouldn't have meth labs -- a consequences of prohibition, therefore a reason to enact drug legalization. Visit the CBS2 "contact us" page and select "News Department" and "Suggestion" in the web form to send the station your thoughts on the matter, or use other contact information appearing on the page.
Location: 
Los Angeles, CA
United States

NACO Again Plays the Meth Card in Bid for More Funding

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
National Association of Counties
URL: 
http://www.naco.org/PrinterTemplate.cfm?Section=Publications&template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=20738

Methamphetamine Sold Openly In Stores

This is the kind of mundane story that doesn't make it into the Chronicle, but it is an example of the misreporting that plagues drug policy journalism. Meth isn't being sold in drugs stores, but that's what the misleading headline in a story about the availability of ephedrine says. Bad, bad, bad headline writing. http://www.abcnews4.com/news/stories/0706/343456.html
Location: 
United States

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