A very destructive drug

It’s the fastest-rising drug problem in the country – the use of methamphetamines or “meth” – a highly addictive drug that destroys people’s lives.

Meth labs – the secret locations where this dangerously addictive drug is made – have sprung up throughout the state. They are being set up faster than police can find them and shut them down. The crime that surrounds the production of meth, and protection of the hiding places where it’s produced, cause headaches for police and make their jobs all that much more dangerous.

The volatile/flammable chemicals used to make the drug, such as anhydrous ammonia, pose a serious danger to communities and to law enforcement. In addition, the so-called “precursor” substances for the manufacture of meth are available legally in drug stores. Pseudoephedrine, ephedrine, and phenylpropanolamine, used properly, are decongestants that relieve nasal discomfort caused by colds, allergies, and hay fever. Some brand names of pseudoephedrine include Afrin, Sinutab, and Sudafed.

Early in 2005, the State Commission on Investigation issued a report, Methamphetamine Use and Manufacture, which warned that the rapid growth in the drug’s use and manufacture “poses an urgent threat to public health and safety and without new and tougher laws to combat the threat, New York could become a haven for methamphetamine users and manufacturers.”

The states surrounding New York had already strengthened their laws regarding the illegal manufacture of methamphetamines. Yet under then-current New York law, when police discovered the labs, they were unable to arrest the operators unless they actually found meth present. As a result, many meth manufacturers had moved their dangerous activities into New York State, where such activities were not illegal. A few years ago in the news was a high profile raid on meth labs in New York’s southern tier.

The senate Republican majority responded with several initiatives to address the problem. The most comprehensive is legislation that cracks down on the production of dangerously addictive methamphetamines by establishing tough criminal penalties for possessing the materials used to make meth and operating the laboratories used to manufacture the drug (S. 5920). Specifically, the legislation:

• Makes possession of a precursor, a chemical reagent, or a solvent with the intent to use it to manufacture meth a Class A misdemeanor for the first offense and a Class E felony for a second conviction within 5 years;

• Makes it a Class E felony to possess a precursor and a solvent or chemical reagent at the same time with intent to use it to manufacture meth;

• Creates three degrees of unlawful manufacture of meth, ranging from a Class D to a Class B felony;

• Makes unlawful disposal of methamphetamine laboratory material a Class E felony;

• Requires that certain mandated child abuse reporters who travel in their work to places where children reside be trained to help them recognize the presence of meth labs;

• Directs the state police to create a statewide repository of data relating to meth labs and local law enforcement agencies to report such information to the repository; and

• Mandates informational programs on meth for vulnerable persons and for retailers.

Earlier in the 2005 Session, the senate had already passed several individual bills that would create a new felony crime for operating a controlled substance establishment, under which property owners would be held criminally responsible for knowingly and intentionally allowing people to manufacture meth or other illegal drugs on their property; create the crimes of unlawful clandestine laboratory operation in the first and second degrees; and create the felony offense of criminal possession of precursors of methamphetamines; and restrict the retail sale of precursors by pharmacies.

The senate has been fighting to stop the scourge of drugs from destroying our homes, communities and schools, and meth is one more drug that we must stop from getting on our streets.

Senator Seward’s office web site is www.senatorjimseward.com.

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