HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html House Lawmakers Demand International Meth Summit
Pubdate: Thu, 08 Dec 2005
Source: Oregonian, The (Portland, OR)
Copyright: 2005 The Oregonian
Author: Steve Suo
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Drug War - A Group Calls On Bush For A Meeting About The Drug And The 
Trade Of Its Key Ingredients

WASHINGTON -- A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday 
called on President Bush to convene an international summit on 
methamphetamine and the global trade in meth ingredients.

The proposed summit would bring together countries that encompass the 
drug's vast marketplace -- from Asia to the Americas.

"This is a problem that's a worldwide epidemic, and we need to treat 
it as such," said Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., a co-chair of the House 
Meth Caucus.

Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash., said the message of a U.S.-sponsored 
summit would be: "We're not alone in this."

"The usage of methamphetamine and abuse of methamphetamine is a 
problem worldwide, and the production is a worldwide problem," Baird 
said. "So we've got natural potential alliances worldwide."

Four Democrats and two Republicans signed the letter asking for the 
summit. Members have also introduced a nonbinding House bill 
expressing congressional support for such a conference.

The lawmakers say they want Bush to seek increased funding for 
international agencies that track shipments of ephedrine and 
pseudoephedrine -- chemical cousins used in cold and allergy 
medicines, either of which is essential in making methamphetamine.

Lawmakers also are pushing for the development of a system to ensure 
that countries do not import more of these chemicals than they 
legitimately need.

A global concern

A global conference on meth would highlight the fact that the United 
States is not the only nation interested in halting the drug's 
production, supporters said.

Amphetamines -- mainly crystal meth -- are the most widely abused 
illicit drugs on the planet aside from marijuana, according to the 
United Nations 2005 World Drug Report. There are 26 million users 
worldwide, more than cocaine, heroin or opium. The majority of meth 
users are residents of Asia, not North America.

Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., said there is a much greater chance of 
cracking down on the international trade in ephedrine and 
pseudoephedrine with help from countries such as Japan and South 
Korea. "A lot of these countries have been drowning in it for a long 
time," he said.

Souder, a frequent critic of the White House response to meth, added: 
"Maybe this isn't (just) a local problem in Indiana and Nebraska. 
Maybe it's an international problem."

Souder said support for an international meeting stems from The 
Oregonian's coverage of the international pseudoephedrine trade. An 
investigation by the newspaper in June found that demand for 
pseudoephedrine by drug traffickers had caused Mexico's imports to 
soar, in spite of international controls designed to prevent 
diversion. Last month, Mexico announced it was cutting its 
pseudoephedrine imports by 40 percent to reduce its surplus.

Gaps in monitoring

The International Narcotics Control Board in Vienna receives reports 
on shipments of the raw material -- and chemicals used in a wide 
array of other drugs -- from country to country. But the board has 
only three investigators to scan the paperwork on thousands of 
shipments each year.

The board also has no formal mechanism for preventing excessive 
imports of chemicals.

With narcotics such as codeine, the international board publishes an 
annual estimate of legitimate, pharmaceutical demand in each country. 
Imports are capped at this level by treaty. A similar system exists 
for "psychotropics" such as methamphetamine, although cooperation is 
voluntary. With precursor chemicals used to make meth, few countries 
submit estimates of legitimate demand, and the board does not publish 
the results.

"If there's a public entity that can track the public data and share 
that worldwide, I think that's the way to go, especially if you can 
increase the mandatory reporting requirements," said Baird, whose 
office drafted the letter to Bush. "But to expect three people to 
track all of these various substances around the entire world is a 
little unreasonable."

In addition to Baird, Souder and Calvert, the letter was signed by 
Reps. Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa; Dennis Cardoza, D-Calif., and Rick 
Larsen, D-Wash.

Rafael Lemaitre, a spokesman for the White House Office on National 
Drug Control Policy, said the administration could not comment until 
it receives the letter.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman