Pubdate: Thu, 21 Apr 2005
Source: Auburn Plainsman, The (Auburn U, AL Edu)
Copyright: 2005 The Auburn Plainsman
Author:  Mett Ausley


Editor, The Auburn Plainsman:

Your April 14 editorial showed appropriate skepticism toward proposed
anti-methamphetamine legislation which admittedly seems at first
glance just another dubious drug war gimmick. Given our drug laws'
sorry track record, The Plainsman can be excused for too hastily
dismissing a rare example of pragmatic anti-drug policy supported by
actual evidence.

As methamphetamine labs migrated eastward from the Pacific, successive
states reflexively adopted stricter enforcement and harsher
sentencing. While politically expedient, these efforts failed to abate
labs or halt their spread.

Oklahoma responded with characteristic toughness, but meth labs ran
rampant for a decade, swelling prisons and costs. Faced with a budget
crunch, Oklahoma enacted controls on pseudoephedrine a year ago. The
result was stunning: Meth lab activity quickly dropped 50 to 80
percent statewide and has remained subdued.

Complaints have been few. Other states are following suit, and a
federal bill is pending.

Current evidence thus supports restricting pseudoephedrine as an easy,
cheap and effective approach to an otherwise refractory meth lab
problem. Drug war critics should endorse judicious legislation while
denouncing superfluous gimmickry contrived for "toughness" bluster and
political appeal.

As meth lab proliferation follows a distinctive geographic and
demographic pattern conducive to regional approaches, the need for a
federal law is questionable. That the proven success of this strategy
signifies the failure of traditional punitive measures should not be
overlooked in public debate.

Mett Ausley

Lake Waccamaw, N. C.
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