Pubdate: Thu, 20 Feb 2003
Source: Salina Journal, The (KS)
Copyright: 2003 -- The Salina Journal
Author:  Tom Bell, Editor & Publisher



THE ARGUMENT Tough laws encourage home meth labs

Hazardous chemicals. Explosive gasses. Toxic fumes that kill instantly.

Why would anyone want to work in such an environment, producing an illegal 
substance that brings long prison sentences?

The answers are simple: Greed and addiction, two powerful attractions that 
draw folks into the manufacture and sale of methamphetamines.

An example of that power was displayed on the front page of Friday's 
Journal. Reporter Sharon Montague told how a traffic stop resulted in the 
discovery of a meth lab that officials say is the largest of its type ever 
found in Kansas.

Police say the lab fills the basement of a home at 902 E. Elm. It is 
equipped with sophisticated equipment, including security cameras, motion 
detectors and a ventilation system that prevents neighbors from noticing 
the noxious odors produced while cooking meth.

Quite an investment. But one that pays off handsomely, thanks to the highly 
addictive nature of meth. The chemical grips users with such power they 
will do anything, and pay any amount, in order to get the next fix. Police 
link local burglaries and armed robberies with addicts supporting meth 
habits that cost hundreds of dollars each day.

On one hand, we applaud local law enforcement officials who risk their 
lives ridding neighborhoods of this scourge.

But on the other, we wonder about the consequence of tough drug laws that 
exact high punishments for the manufacture and sale of certain drugs. Those 
statutes drive up drug prices and provide profit motive for a criminal 
element drawn to drug manufacturing.

Some assert that all sorts of crime -- from petty theft to murder -- would 
decrease if drugs were decriminalized and the profit motive removed. That 
is especially true in big cities, where gangs battle over boundaries in the 
most profitable, drug-infested neighborhoods.

Could decriminalization actually reduce violent crime?

Possibly. But we may never know, thanks to blind rejection of any proposal 
that appears to go soft on drugs. Attempts to fund federal research on 
decriminalization are rejected out of hand. Instead, officials with the 
Justice Department, under orders from Attorney General John Ashcroft, are 
more likely to raid California clinics and arrest a few cancer victims who 
smoke marijuana to relieve symptoms. California voters approved medicinal 
marijuana, but it runs contrary to federal law.

Let's support local law enforcement officials who serve and protect our 
community. But at the same time, let's explore other solutions to this 
country's drug problems, including the notion of decriminalization.

- -- Tom Bell

Editor & Publisher
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