Pubdate: Wed, 02 Aug 2006
Source: Asheville Citizen-Times (NC)
Copyright: 2006 Asheville Citizen-Times
Author: Joel Burgess
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


ASHEVILLE - Methamphetamine is still widely available in the mountains.

But strategies working in Western states - where the drug's epidemic began 
- - should start helping here, too, the nation's drug czar said Tuesday.

"I was just out in Portland, Ore., where they have begun to see declines in 
purity of 25 percent of Mexican-produced (meth) and doubling of price," 
John Walters, director of the White House drug policy office said during a 
City Hall press conference.

"That suggests they can't keep supply up," he said.

U.S. Rep. Charles Taylor, R-Brevard, sponsored the press conference and a 
closed-door meeting for Walters and local government and law enforcement 

Some have said crimes and safety concerns with the highly addictive drug 
are a top concern.

Walters spoke mostly about progress made in Western states and the next 
steps in combating the drug. He also addressed crack cocaine, the drug 
targeted most by Asheville officials.

Nationwide, meth use among young people has declined more than 30 percent 
and incidents involving local drug labs have taken a sharp downturn, 
Walters said.

Most of that progress has been in Western and Central-Western states. 
Efforts there include strong restrictions on the sale of cold medicines 
with ingredients to make the drug, a federal operation against Canadian 
black market imports and improved access to meth-specific treatment, he said.

The next phase should emphasize tightening U.S. borders to prevent drug 
trafficking, voluntary random drug testing at schools and expanding 
treatment for addicts. Walters said the random testing would be used to 
direct students to treatment rather than prosecute them.

"Let's stop the destruction at the front end through both prevention and 
intervention and treatment."

Walters praised Taylor and other members of Congress for passing the Combat 
Meth Act to restrict the sale of cold medicine in ways similar to the state 

Taylor's Democratic opponent, Heath Shuler, supports similar measures, 
spokesman Andrew Whalen said. Shuler has met with sheriffs to talk about 
the issue.

Law enforcement found nine meth labs statewide in 1999, but that number 
climbed to 177 labs in 2003. In 2005, 328 labs were discovered.

There has been a sharp decline this year, which local officials credit to a 
seven-month-old state law that limits cold medicine sales. The State Bureau 
of Investigation counted 139 seizures meth lab busts from January to June, 
compared with 207 during the same period last year.

Mayor Terry Bellamy, Councilman Carl Mumpower and Police Chief Bill Hogan 
said they appreciated the federal government's help in programs such as the 
Weed and Seed initiative for city public housing.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom