February 23, 2014

THEIR VIEW: Meth is too dangerous for legislators


---- — We’ve said it before, but the point cannot be stated enough. Methamphetamine is a highly addictive, dangerous drug that is ruining our rural communities, and state lawmakers cannot continue to ignore the problem.

Proposals to make a key ingredient used to make meth a prescription drug have, once again, gone nowhere in this General Assembly session, despite the fact that four bills were filed this session to tackle the issue.

The perception is that meth is not a statewide issue, but that it’s limited to certain regions of the state, which is why some lawmakers say they’re reluctant to take on the issue that would make over-the-counter products containing ephedrine and pseudoephedrine available only with a prescription.

Yet, the numbers tell a different tale.

Last year, the Indiana State Police Methamphetamine Suppression Section broke up 1,808 meth labs throughout the state. Only one county — Porter — was reported to have no meth labs. Porter is a part of ISP District 13, which reported the least amount of meth labs last year with 41 labs in the seven-county district.

Other counties and districts weren’t so fortunate. ISP District 22, which includes Allen, Noble and Dekalb counties, reported 270 labs, the most in the state. Our district, which includes Lawrence, Monroe, Brown, Greene, Morgan and Owen counties, reported 124 labs, but those are just the ISP numbers and doesn’t include the labs broken up by local law enforcement agencies.

Clearly, meth is a statewide issue.

And all the research points to the fact that, if those cold medicines were made available only with a prescription, the meth issue would all but go away as it has in other states, including Oregon and Mississippi, but lawmakers seem to be turning a deaf ear to the pleas of prosecutors and police who believe the law is imperative in order to curb the drug issue.

As we’ve reported before, Oregon and Mississippi currently own the lowest figures in the nation for meth lab seizures. It wasn’t always that way though. Oregon had a serious meth problem; police seized 448 labs in 2004. In 2006, Oregon returned medicines containing pseudoephedrine to prescription-drug status. Since then, meth lab incidents have declined 98 percent to a low of nine labs seized in 2012. A similar story can be told for Mississippi.

Lawrence County isn’t even among the hardest-hit areas in terms of meth, but we see the toll the drug — easy to make and easier to hide — is taking on our community. Meth arrests are almost a daily occurrence, and those who are arrested for possessing drug are usually repeat offenders because meth maintains a death grip on its addicts.

We can’t help but question the motives behind some legislators’ refusal to act definitively on the meth issue. Pharmaceutical companies and the Indiana Retail Council have lobbied hard against the proposals that would make ephedrine- and pseudoephedrine-containing products available only with a prescription.

It’s disappointing that the General Assembly turned its back on a way that could severely cripple the meth epidemic in Indiana. It’s high time the state take a tough stance on the issue that ruins lives, affects children and clogs our justice system.

We cannot continue to ignore the issue gripping almost every county in the state. And, even though proposals died during this short legislative session, we hope proposals will take more of a precedent in the General Assembly next year because the issue is simply too dangerous to ignore any longer.

— Times-Mail, Bedford