Editorial: Battling meth in America’s heartland

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 6, 2005

Methamphetamine (meth) is highly addictive and the fastest growing illegal drug in America. I know that Albert Lea, like many towns in Greater Minnesota, is on the front lines in fighting a meth epidemic that is destroying families and tearing apart our communities.

This &8221;Meth Epidemic&8220; is being compared to the &8221;Crack Epidemic&8220; of the 1980s and 1990s. Unlike crack cocaine, meth use has escalated in rural areas including Minnesota. There’s no doubt combating meth is draining local resources and is a tough battle to fight.

That’s why I’m pleased with the recent passage of the Combat Meth Act of 2005 in the Senate. This legislation I proudly coauthored is a major victory and milestone in the war on drugs.

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The Combat Meth Act will limit access to cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine, the primary ingredient used to make meth.

This bill moves cold medicines behind the pharmacy counter and limits how much one person can buy in a month to 7.5 grams.

This bill provides $43 million of new anti-meth funding for law enforcement, training and treatment, including $25 million for local law enforcement and federal prosecutors to bring meth manufactures and dealers to justice.

In addition, the bill provides $13 million for treatment and research and $5 million to help children who have been affected. The impact of Minnesota’s drug problem is clear in recent statistics. Methamphetamine use is now present in all 87 Minnesota counties, including here in Freeborn County.

In the past four years, the number of inmates behind bars for meth related crimes in Minnesota alone has jumped more than 500 percent.

In 2004, Minnesota local jurisdictions spent more than $130 million in public funding addressing methamphetamine cases alone.

The ready availability and extensive demand for methamphetamine is a major threat to Minnesota.

Users are not the only victims. Children are the unintended victims of meth use. In one Minnesota county, a &8221;meth baby,&8220; an infant born to a mother who was using the drug while pregnant, is born every week.

Meth is a major cause of child abuse, shaken baby syndrome, and neglect. More than 69 percent of Minnesota counties reported a growth in out of home placements because of meth during the last year.

The children who are removed from meth homes are often sick and many wind up in foster homes.

I applaud the passage of the Combat Meth Act. It’s a step in the right direction. Resources are critical to reducing the flow and production of meth in our state. We must continue to do all we can to fight this epidemic in Albert Lea and throughout the state. You have my commitment. Together, we can combat this epidemic.