Feds should focus on stopping meth smuggling
Reports indicate that domestic production of methamphetamine and workers' use of meth have declined.
STATE laws restricting the sale of cold medications containing a key ingredient of methamphetamine have effectively reduced domestic production of the drug. The federal government now must focus on the smuggling of meth from Mexico, its largest source.
White House drug czar John Walters said a drop in police seizures of illegal meth labs and a reduction in job applicants testing positive for meth are evidence of a successful "one-two punch" of restricting chemicals and educating the public. However, the Bush administration can take little credit after proposing to cut federal funding of state and local efforts to combat meth.
The kudos more properly should go to Oklahoma, where lab seizures plummeted by 80 percent from 2003 to 2004 and by an additional 60 percent, from 667 to 217, last year. That state began banning over-the-counter sales of medicines containing pseudoephedrine in the spring of 2004.
In Oregon, with a similar law, lab seizures plunged by 60 percent, from 471 to 189. On July 1, a new law requiring a doctor's prescription for such pseudoephedrine medicines as Sudafed and Benadryl will take effect. Nationally, lab seizures fell by 30 percent last year.
A 2005 law in Hawaii weaker than those in Oklahoma and Oregon limiting a person's single-day and monthly purchases might have resulted in the more modest reduction in lab seizures, from 13 to 11. It should drop further after July 1, the effective date of new state law conforming with a federal requirement that pseudoephedrine medicines be kept behind counters.
Quest Diagnostics Inc., the nation's largest drug testing company, reported that meth use fell by 31 percent, to 0.48 percent of workers, during the first five months of this year. That is 45 percent lower than the peak of its use in 2004. Still, more than half of the nation's counties report that meth is their biggest drug problem.
It might continue to be unless meth is blocked at the nation's southern border. Eighty percent of meth is imported, 65 percent from superlabs in Mexico. Most of pseudoephedrine is made in China, India and Germany and diverted from legal use.
President Bush has pledged to take aggressive action to combat meth. The administration should concentrate on putting a halt to the smuggling of methamphetamine in its purest form -- crystal meth, or "ice" -- from Mexico.
The Drug Enforcement Administration announced last month that it would establish teams with Mexico on their respective sides of the border to investigate and target the most wanted meth trafficking organization. Time will tell whether the effort will be effective.