Pubdate: Wed, 19 Dec 2007
Source: Winston-Salem Journal (NC)
Copyright: 2007 Piedmont Publishing Co. Inc.
Author: Monte Mitchell
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)
Bookmark: (Youth)
Note: The Journal does not publish LTEs from writers outside its 
circulation area


Fear That Dealers Are Targeting Kids Sparks Effort, But Skeptics Say
That Threat Is Only A Myth

JEFFERSON Drug dealers could be distributing candy-flavored
methamphetamine to children. Or reports that they are could be an
urban legend spreading on the Internet and in the news media,
depending on who you believe. But in Ashe County, Sheriff James
Williams' nose told him that a batch of pink meth seized by his
investigators during a three-month investigation earlier this year
sure smelled different.

"You could smell the flavor on it," Williams said. "It was like a
crystal meth, only it was red-looking. It had kind of a strawberry
smell to it." Reports of candy-flavored meth have made news headlines
since January, when authorities in Carson City, Nev., seized a
pink-colored meth that became known as "strawberry quick." Skeptics
note that no one in law enforcement probably knows what the substance
tastes like.

David Duncan, the chairman of the illicit-drugs council of the
National Association of Public Health Policy in Reston, Va., said that
the candy-flavored-meth stories are myths, fueled by misunderstandings
and a gullible media.

Steve Robertson, a Drug Enforcement Agency special agent and
spokesman, said that the DEA has not analyzed any flavored
methamphetamine, but it has heard from informants and intelligence
sources that "people are trying to flavor meth to make it more
attractive." A spokeswoman for the State Bureau of Investigation said
that the agency is investigating two or three cases of colored meth,
but it doesn't know yet if the meth was flavored.

The reports were enough for state Sen. Steve Goss, D-45th, whose
district includes Ashe County, to announce this week that he's working
on legislation to fight what he called a scourge and real danger to
children. He's still developing the details, but he said that the
approach could include stronger penalties and the appointment of a
task force.

"There's much to be learned about this new threat," Goss said. "We
believe it's being targeted to younger children." Goss isn't the only
politician calling for tougher laws. Responding to police and media
reports, U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Chuck Grassley,
R-Iowa, introduced legislation in April to increase federal penalties
for drug dealers who use flavored drugs to entice young people. The
bill is still in committee.

Meth is typically a white or brown crystal that is most often smoked,
inhaled or injected, although some people swallow it. Traffickers may
add chocolate powder, gelatin or other flavorings to downplay the
dangers of the drug and make it more attractive, Robertson said.

Colored meth has been around for years. Some makers add dye to
distinguish their "brand" for marketing.

Information on the Web site,  which debunks many
stories circulating on the Internet, says that candy-flavored meth is
an urban legend. One widely distributed e-mail in October said that
strawberry-flavored meth was being handed out to school children. The
e-mail was purportedly from Special Agent Todd Coleman of the federal
Department of Homeland Security. Reached by telephone this week,
Coleman said that the e-mail did not come from him or his office.

Bob Curley, the news editor for Join Together, a program of Boston
University's School of Public Health, said this week that he didn't know of
any confirmed instances of flavored meth in the United States
Curley said that the DEA issued warnings after the report came out of Carson
City, Nev., and major news outlets picked up the story.
"Flavored meth is somewhat akin to the Loch Ness Monster: everyone has heard
of it, but firsthand sightings are hard to track down and verify," Curley
He said that when he spoke to officials at the Carson City Sheriff's Office
they couldn't confirm if the meth they seized was flavored or just colored.
He said that both the DEA and the White House Office of National Drug
Control Policy told him that they haven't been able to identify a single
confirmed seizure of flavored meth.

In Ashe County, sheriff's Capt. Chris Miller said that after a local
newspaper reported the local case - including its Web site - he was
contacted by a doctor in Alaska, as well as others, either telling him
that candy-flavored meth is an urban legend or asking questions about
it. "I can only tell you what we got, it's not rumor," he said. The
sheriff's office conducted an undercover drug investigation from July
to September in Ashe and in Grayson County, Va., and seized about 10
to 11 ounces of the meth, he said. Meth is often odorless or can
sometimes have a pungent chemical smell if it's wet, he said. This was
different. "It smelled like candy, a sweet candy odor," he said. "It
looks like a pink crystallized candy." He said he's heard the drug
called "strawberry delight" in Ashe and Alleghany counties.

He said that the DEA information says that candy-flavored meth is
being made to entice children, but that authorities don't believe
that's what happened in Ashe. He said the drugs that were found appear
to be simply what the dealer had been provided with by his supplier.

"We have no information children are being targeted in this area,"
Miller said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Derek