A rundown of policies and initiatives from Congress and the Bush administration that address the epidemic of meth abuse in the United States.
The Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005
This legislation is part of a bill to amend the PATRIOT Reauthorization Act, which was passed in March 2006. Backed by the bipartisan Congressional Meth Caucus, the Combat Meth Act will:
- Nationalize restrictions on retail sales by requiring ephedrine and pseudoephedrine products to be kept behind the counter or in a locked case; require purchasers to buy no more than 3.6 grams a day and 9 grams a month, show I.D. and sign a sales log, and require employees handling the products to be properly trained
- Toughen penalties against meth kingpins and smugglers and also meth cooks who endanger children or use federal property
- Step up the government's authority to monitor the flow of precursor chemicals from foreign manufacturers, including withholding aid to countries who are not fully cooperating with U.S. law enforcement
- Hold precursor chemical importers and exporters accountable if their product is diverted for illicit use
- Increase funding for assistance programs such as drug courts and those helping mothers or drug-endangered children
- Impose on manufacturers quotas for production and import of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine
- Pledge support to Mexico in its efforts to curb methamphetamine production
The President's National Drug Control Strategy for 2006
This strategy, [PDF] released annually by the White House Office of National Drug Control, reflects an increasing awareness of the meth problem. It recommends a multi-pronged approach to America's drug problems that involves "stopping drug use before it starts, healing drug users, and disrupting the market for illicit drugs." With regard to methamphetamine, the report finds that although meth use is down among high school students, it is otherwise rising; treatment admissions for amphetamines and methamphetamines have increased 500 percent since 1992, and workplace positive drug tests have increased 200 percent since 2001. The strategy focuses on the following steps in solving the problem:
- Urging Congress to pass legislation that limits retail sales of pseudoephedrine
- Working with other countries who export pseudoephedrine or ephedrine, specifically Germany, India, China and the Czech Republic, to improve communications between them and the DEA
- Cooperation with Canada and Mexico to curb raw ephedrine and pseudoephedrine imports
- A National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy, a multi-agency effort to fight the movement of drugs and drug profits across the U.S.-Mexico border
- With most of the recommendations from the 2004 National Synthetic Drug Action Plan "implemented or in the process of being implemented," producing a follow-up that will cover the next two years
- A 77 percent decrease in seized super labs since 2001
- 96 High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) programs that are specifically focused on methamphetamine
- Rehabilitating children affected by the drug
Budget for FY 2007
President Bush's proposed 2007 budget suggests a mixed commitment to combating the meth epidemic, and it has already received criticism from some areas hardest-hit by the drug. The budget proposes:
- $40 million to the DEA for the clean-up of methamphetamine lab sites (a 100 percent increase over the enacted 2006 allocation)
- Transferring the HIDTA program, which funds anti-drug efforts in the hardest-hit regions and is currently operated by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, to the Department of Justice. The proposed transfer reduces funding for HIDTAs from $225 million to $208 million.
- The elimination of the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants -- general-purpose state and local law enforcement grants that state and local officials say are key to fighting meth in their communities.
Burns' Testimony, July 2005
Deputy drug czar Scott M. Burns testified before Rep. Mark Souder's Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources about the Bush administration's strategy to reduce drug use:
"[It] is not focused on one illicit drug at the expense of another, but seeks to reduce all illicit drug use. However, officials at ONDCP, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Justice realize that methamphetamine, illicitly used prescription drugs, and club drugs -- collectively referred to as synthetic drugs -- pose a unique challenge, and constitute an emerging problem. For that reason, the Administration began new work on a comprehensive plan to attack the methamphetamine problem."
The plan Burns refers to is the National Synthetic Drugs Action Plan (below) released in 2004.
National Synthetic Drug Action Plan 2004
In October 2004, the president's Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) released its National Synthetic Drugs Action Plan, [PDF] summarizing the progress and concerns specifically in battling methamphetamine, MDMA (Ecstasy) and other club drugs. The plan made more than 40 recommendations with regard to prevention, treatment, regulation, and law enforcement for these types of drugs, including:
- Improving treatment and prevention tactics
- Improving the sharing of law enforcement intelligence and tactics
- Removing the exemption for blister packs from an earlier law passed in 1996
- Improved coordination with Mexico and Canada as well as the countries producing ephedrine and pseudoephedrine,
- Educating retailers and asking for their voluntary assistance,
- Improving knowledge about labs and providing more funding for their expensive cleanup
- Projecting the actual public need for pseudoephedrine on both a national and local level.
- Limiting online sales of precursor chemicals
- Encouraging manufacturers to look for chemical alternatives that cannot be used illicitly