Pubdate: Tue, 14 Oct 2003
Source: Appalachian, The (NC Edu)
Copyright: Appalachian State University 2003
Author: Mett Ausley, Jr., MD


To the Editor:

Anna Oakes' Oct. 2 [online] article addresses District Attorney Jerry 
Wilson's "weapons of mass destruction" charges against small time 
methamphetamine cooks based on his assessment that existing penalties for 
meth lab offenses are too lenient. Many think these bizarre charges don't 
fit the crime and are overly punitive for relatively low-level drug offenses.

Less obvious are the deceptive political agenda and feckless manipulation 
driving events. Novel to our region, meth labs are commonplace elsewhere, 
the phenomenon gradually migrating from the west coast during the last 
decade. Thousands of small labs are seized annually in Midwestern states, 
notably Oklahoma and Missouri; recently Alabama and Tennessee have been 
heavily afflicted. Sharp regional outbreaks with dozens of busts, lately 
seen here, are ordinary occurrences in these locales. Determined 
enforcement, harsh punishment and shrill, overheated propaganda haven't 
slowed the trend much, if any.

Our enforcement officials have been quite aware of these issues and have 
long anticipated meth labs' arrival, giving Wilson and colleagues ample 
time to request appropriate sentencing revisions and calmly educate the 
public. It appears they've forsaken such preparation in favor of awaiting 
the inevitable crisis, feigning surprise and capitalizing on public alarm 
to stampede lawmakers into hasty enactment of expensive, politically 
expedient remedies known to be marginally effective. In this context, 
equating drug manufacturing with terrorism is easily seen as merely a ploy 
to amplify the hysteria. Policy makers should denounce these theatrics and 
obtain sober disinterested advice from experienced sources not bound to 
predictable criminal justice perspectives.

Mett Ausley, Jr., MD Lake Waccamaw NC
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