House Approves Bipartisan, Comprehensive Legislation to Advance the Fight Against Meth
Walden-backed provisions take aim at limiting access to ingredients, imposing stiffer penalties for production, curbing international meth trafficking
The federal fight against methamphetamine took a major step forward today as the House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation containing critical provisions directed at curbing meth production both domestically and abroad. The policy changes approved were outlined in the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 and supported by Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR), a member of the Congressional Caucus to Fight & Control Methamphetamine and the Speaker's Task Force for a Drug Free America.
At a news conference earlier today with House Majority Whip Roy Blunt and Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner, Walden said, "Today we change the paradigm on the producers and begin protecting the people. Passing these provisions takes the detonating device out of the hands of the meth cooks who are the roadside bombers in our rural communities. Their toxic brew poisons our people, pollutes our streams and destroys families. Every case of parental rights termination in Oregon last year was related to methamphetamine abuse. And when you look into the eyes of children who have lost their parents, and when you talk with parents who have lost their children, you develop a real passion to do whatever it takes to protect our communities from this scourge."
He added, "Let the word go out at home and abroad that the Congress and the citizens of this country will do whatever it takes to shut down super labs and those who make meth in their homes. We expect, and will demand, full cooperation from countries and companies who produce or sell pseudoephedrine.
"Oregon has enacted some of the strongest laws in the country to battle methamphetamine, but you cannot effectively stop the meth cooks on a state-by-state basis. They will simply go to a state without tough restrictions and get ingredients there. This legislation helps stop the state-by-state shopping network and gives the country a fighting chance to stop the spread of meth."
Provisions included in the legislation would:
* Classify pseudoephedrine and ephedrine as "Schedule Listed Chemicals," requiring a national standard for sale from behind the counter or from a locked case on the sales floor (this would not preempt more stringent laws such as the successful ones enacted in Oregon);
* Require retailers to maintain a log of identification and signatures for all sales of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine products;
* Mandate store training for employees selling such products;
* Reduce federal limits on per-sale and per-month purchase of pseudoephedrine products to 3.6 grams and 9.0 grams respectively;
* Repeal the federal "blister-pack exemption" that allowed for unlimited sale quantities of blister packed medicine;
* Require the State Department to identify the five largest importers and five largest exporters of key precursor meth ingredients, directing that these countries comply with international efforts to track shipments of such products or face reduced eligibility for U.S. foreign aid;
* Increase the maximum prison term for possession of precursor ingredients with an intent to manufacture meth;
* Allow an additional 10-20 years to be added to other established penalties for an individuals convicted of making meth in the presence of a child;
* Establish grants to state and local governments for law enforcement agencies to aid in the investigation of meth trafficking and to help reimburse costs incurred by the DEA for clean-up of toxic meth lab sites; and,
* Authorize grants for treatment of pregnant women addicted to meth and meth-endangered children living in a home where meth was produced, distributed and/or used.
"While there may not be a silver bullet in ridding our communities of meth, we have taken a strong step forward today. Through continued collaboration and cooperation at all levels - local, state and federal, domestic and international - we will be successful in keeping meth off our streets, away from our children and out of our lives," Walden added.
At Walden's request, Congressman Mark Souder held an official field hearing of the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy & Human Resources in Pendleton in October titled "Stopping the Methamphetamine Epidemic: Lessons from the Pacific Northwest." The hearing afforded Souder, chairman of the subcommittee, the opportunity to hear firsthand accounts from law enforcement, treatment professionals and meth-effected families about the devastation facing the region, including Walden's district, which covers central, southern and eastern Oregon. His district, Oregon's Second, contains 20% of the state's population but has 35% of all clandestine labs seized in Oregon. The problem in Umatilla County in particular has reached epic proportions; with only 2% of the state's population, nearly 25% of all meth labs are found within its borders.
Earlier this year Walden held seven town hall summits to educate the public and raise awareness about the issue. Thousands of residents gathered for summits held in Baker City, Grants Pass, Hood River, Klamath Falls, Medford, Pendleton and Redmond. At the events, Walden was joined by local government, prevention, law enforcement and treatment professionals.
Attending both the Medford and Grants Pass summits was White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Deputy Director Scott Burns, who joined Walden in Umatilla County to meet with the Blue Mountain Enforcement Narcotics Team in August 2004. Walden believes these visits by Burns were instrumental in the long-awaited designation of Umatilla County as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) by ONDCP in September.
Congressman Walden is in his fourth term representing the people of Oregon's Second District, which includes twenty counties in central, southern and eastern Oregon, and he is a Deputy Whip in the House Leadership structure.