Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Reefer Madness

Meth is becoming a big problem, according to the people who have to deal with it on the front line: the county sheriffs and local law enforcement.

More than half of the sheriffs interviewed for a National Association of Counties survey released Tuesday said they considered meth the most serious problem facing their departments.

“We’re finding out that this is bigger problem than we thought,” said Larry Naake, executive director of the association. “Folks at the state and federal level need to know about this.”

About 90 percent of those interviewed reported increases in meth-related arrests in their counties over the last three years, packing jails in the Midwest and elsewhere.

But what does the White House think is a bigger problem? Marijuana!

The report comes soon after the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy restated its stance that marijuana remains the nation’s most substantial drug problem. Federal estimates show there are 15 million marijuana users compared to the 1 million that might use meth.

Dave Murray, a policy analyst for the White House, said he understood that the meth problem moving through the nation was serious and substantial. But he disagreed that it had reached the state of an epidemic.

So Mr. Murray is going to wait until meth becomes an epidemic? Meth is highly addictive and, according to those who know, it can make the user highly dangerous to themselves and others. Marijuana is not addicitive, and the biggest danger it presents is to the Pop Tart section of the grocery store.

Sheriff Jon Marvel of western Indiana’s Vigo County estimates that 80 percent of the inmates in his county’s jail in Terre Haute are held on meth-related charges.

He also points to an operating budget that has risen from $800,000 in 1999 to about $3.4 million last year as the best way to illustrate the stranglehold meth has on the county’s resources.

“I want it stopped and I want it stopped now, and there is no way that’s going to happen,” Marvel said.

Sounds like an epidemic to me.