Block meth from
being smuggled into
the United States


The U.S. House has approved measures aimed at stopping methamphetamine from being smuggled into the country.

HAWAII and 30 other states have taken steps to limit the sales of cold medicines that contain the one ingredient necessary in the manufacture of crystal methamphetamine. Effective as those efforts might be, most of the meth that is destroying American lives is smuggled into the country after being produced in superlabs, mainly in Mexico. Legislation recently approved by the U.S. House is directed at blocking that pipeline and should be enacted.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says an average of 45 small toxic meth labs a day have been seized by law enforcement in the past three years. Indicating a shift in the Bush administration's position, he now calls meth "the most dangerous drug in America -- a problem that has surpassed marijuana."

While Gonzales points out that meth can be produced "with as little as $50 in supplies and an Internet recipe," limiting sales of medicine containing pseudoephedrine, converted in home labs to make meth, won't end the national epidemic.

The House last week overwhelmingly approved two amendments to the State Department's yearly authorization bill to reduce smuggled meth. The legislation is directed at foreign superlabs, which Rep. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn., says are the source of most of America's meth.

While law enforcement spends 80 percent of its time tracking down and seizing small meth labs, says Kennedy, "they lack the tools and resources to go after the source of the other 80 percent of meth -- international superlabs." Sixty-five percent of America's meth comes from superlabs in Mexico, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The amount of pseudoephedrine imported to Mexico from plants in India, China and Europe has risen from 100 tons to 224 tons per year, although the demand for legitimate purposes is only 70 tons. The overage of 154 tons obviously is used to manufacture meth to be smuggled into the United States.

Under Kennedy's amendment, the State Department would have to report and certify that the five largest exporters and five largest importers of pseudoephedrine are fully cooperating with U.S. law enforcement or face a reduction of up to 50 percent in U.S. assistance. A similar policy already is used in dealing with countries that are the source of heroin and cocaine.

The other amendment would direct the State Department to assist Mexico in preventing the manufacture of methamphetamine and to encourage Mexico to combat illegal diversion of chemicals to produce meth. Gonzales says he already has approached Mexican officials to stop the superlabs from producing meth for smuggling into America.

A similar effort was made in halting smuggled meth from Canada, until recently the primary conduit for meth into the United States. Under American pressure, Canada adopted controls on pseudoephedrine, resulting in a 77 percent reduction in superlab seizures in the United States since 2001, according to Gonzales.

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