Pubdate: Wed, 27 Jul 2005
Source: Journal Gazette, The (IN)
Copyright: 2005 The Journal Gazette
Author: Sylvia A. Smith
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Souder: Drug Czar Lax On Near-Epidemic

WASHINGTON  People in the Northeast or Chicago "would laugh if you told 
them there's a meth epidemic," a Bush administration anti-drug official 
said Tuesday, contradicting the attorney general and prompting a stern 
reaction from members of a House committee.

Rep. Mark Souder, R-3rd, scolded the Bush administration for not having a 
plan to attack the spread of methamphetamine, which he said is on the cusp 
of a nationwide epidemic "like we've never seen in America" because it is 
beginning to spread from rural areas to cities.

"The attorney general says it's the most dangerous drug in America, and we 
want ONDCP (the Office of the National Drug Control Policy) to acknowledge 
it," Souder told the agency's deputy director, Scott Burns.

But at a hearing Tuesday, Burns said the drug czar's office "also has to 
deal with heroin in the Northeast, where they would laugh if you told them 
America has a meth epidemic. We have to deal with cocaine and gangs in 
Chicago, where they would laugh if you told them there's a meth epidemic. 
We have to deal with the fact that more kids are in treatment for marijuana 
than for all other drugs combined and that 75 percent of the 19.5 million 
(drug users) are using that drug. We have to be able to deal with all of 
the drugs and all of the problems."

Members of Souder's committee  Democrats and Republicans alike  
castigated Burns for not having a specific strategy for tackling meth 
production and use.

Souder complained that the drug czar's approach is "piecemeal" even though 
meth "has been steadily moving across the country.  We see no national 
coordinated meth strategy."

Burns said his agency is working on one.

Souder also complained that the Bush administration, "with the active 
backing of ONDCP," proposed to cut the anti-drug budget for next year, 
particularly in programs involved in local law enforcement, which deals 
with meth problems. He said the House has largely restored the money.

"Is ONDCP and the administration ready to say, 'We were wrong,' and, as we 
go to conference here, are they going to back us on the meth questions?" he 
asked Burns, referring to the process used when the House and Senate 
resolve the differences between the two chambers' differences in spending 

"I'll deliver the message, congressman," Burns replied. "I hear you loud 
and clear."

In a report issued three weeks ago, the National Association of Counties 
said 58 percent of counties say meth is their No. 1 drug problem.

"Meth is the greatest threat to the United States, maybe including 
al-Qaida," said Rep. Tom Osborne, R-Neb. He told Burns that members of 
Congress "need specifics; we don't need generalities" about a nationwide 
plan for attacking the spread of meth.
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