Pubdate: Sat, 30 Apr 2011
Source: News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)
Copyright: 2011 The News and Observer Publishing Company


There is, tragically, a long line of drugs in the United States, and
in North Carolina, in the competition to be the most dangerous.
Methamphetamine, called a psychostimulant or "upper" because it can
produce a feeling of alertness and even euphoria, is certainly in the
running, and not just because of the consequences of addiction but
also because of the hazards in the amateur "labs" that produce it.

The compounds used to make meth can, if not cleaned up by
professionals in hazmat suits who know what they're doing, result in
explosions and fires. Innocent bystanders at meth lab sites have been
burned and injured by the dangers the lab operators left behind.

Law enforcement in North Carolina knows the hazards well, because the
state has plenty of the labs. State Bureau of Investigation Director
Greg McLeod estimates that more than 400 labs in need of a cleanup
could be found in the state this year.

That cleanup is going to be expensive, and vital to the effort has
been federal assistance. But, funding for the agency that provides the
help has been cut. And now the Drug Enforcement Administration has cut
money for the states altogether. Passing the cost on is a tenuous
option, given the difficult situation with North Carolina's budget.
The News & Observer's Barbara Barrett reports that state officials are
pressing for Congress to intervene with more help.

If that help is not forthcoming, injuries and deaths will increase.
It's that simple. Meth labs are no mystery, after all. And those who
produce the drug, either for profit or their own use, aren't answering
to anyone and feel no guilt about putting others at serious risk.

This year, 30 children in North Carolina have been pulled from meth
lab sites. One 4-month-old baby in Hoke County, about 75 miles
southwest of Raleigh, received chemical burns at a site. There have
been numerous other incidents, and doubtless many others never
reported, in which people have been hurt in explosions while someone
was "cooking" meth.

Brad Miller, Democratic U.S. representative of the 13th District, has
an interest in the issue and says random budget cutting by Republicans
without regard to consequences has been the villain here. It's also
true that White House budgets have cut funding for programs that are
part of the effort to reduce the hazards.

Whatever the reason, members of Congress need to step in and recognize
the problem with the proliferation of meth labs and thus with the
hazards left behind. This can be viewed as a state of emergency, and
as an emergency for the states. 
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