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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Location: Washington DC

Oct. 7, 2004



S. 2934. A bill to combat methamphetamine abuse in the United States; to the Committee on the Judiciary.

Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the Confronting Methamphetamines Act of 2004.

Methamphetamine, meth, use is growing exponentially in parts of our country and is spreading across the country at an alarming rate. We must act aggressively to attack the meth problem with a long-term commitment of resources or we will soon have a national drug crisis on the scale of an epidemic.

Meth is an extremely dangerous and highly addictive drug. Individuals who use meth risk becoming addicted to this life-destroying drug with just one use. Meth use has ruined the lives of many people who prior to their addiction to meth were successful contributors to our society and our economy.

Meth use triggers an avalanche of other problems for addicts' families and our communities. The use of meth is often linked to child abuse and the destruction of families. It contributes substantially to the perpetration of violent crimes, particularly burglary and crimes of substantial cost and personal pain to the victims, including identity theft. The stories I have heard about meth users are horrible-parents so focused on feeding their habit that they forget their children are right there with them, hungry, and without any love or care. Users become aggressive, violent and unstable. Often, the kids end up users as well.

Sadly, our children are discovering meth, and the results will be devastating. According to a 2001 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in ten high school students have used meth. The statistics are clear: the problem is bad, and it's getting worse. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University reports that while the proportion of teens who know users of LSD, cocaine, and heroin has dropped sharply from last year, the percentage of teens who know a user of methamphetamines has risen from 12 percent in 2003 to 15 percent this year.

The devastation to our kids' lives is hitting our rural communities first. The Columbia University researchers also found that eighth graders living in rural America are 104 percent more likely to use amphetamines than eighth graders in urban areas.

And meth is not just a health and social problem; it is also an enormous environmental problem. There are two types of local meth labs: so-called "super-labs," which are capable of manufacturing large volumes of methamphetamines and clandestine labs set up by users to manufacture small amounts of the drug for personal use. These clandestine labs can be set up in the woods, in hotel rooms or even in the back seat of a car. They can be set up anywhere, but are usually located where there is little traffic or population.

These hazardous "labs" can go unnoticed for years, but they produce major chemical hazards and pose severe fire risk. Meth production generates extremely hazardous byproducts, such as anhydrous ammonia, ether, sulfuric acid, as well as other toxins that are volatile, corrosive, and poisonous. When these substances are illegally disposed of in rivers, streams and other dump areas, explosions and serious environmental damage can and does result. Our State and local environmental agencies are responsible to cleanup these hazardous sites and it is taking a toll on their resources.

The use of meth is spreading rapidly from the western region of the United States across the rural Midwest and to the east. The spreading availability of methamphetamine is illustrated by increasing numbers of meth seizures, arrests, indictments, and sentences. And those numbers are rising across the country. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, methamphetamine is widely available throughout the Pacific, Southwest, and West Central regions and is increasingly available in the Great Lakes and the Southeast.

Similarly, the National Institute on Drug Abuse's Community Epidemiology Working Group reports that, in 2002, methamphetamine indicators remained highest in West Coast areas and parts of the Southwest, as well as Hawaii. Meth abuse and the crimes associated with it are spreading in areas such as Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, and Texas, as well as the East Coast and mid-Atlantic regions. This problem, once perceived as a "western state" problem, has become a nationwide problem, growing at an extraordinary rate.

My State has shown that a cooperative effort-law enforcement working side-by-side with those handling cleanup, intervention, treatment, child and family support, drug courts and family drug courts, and education-is effective at addressing this problem. Thanks to the Washington Methamphetamine Initiative and the "Methamphetamine Action Teams," multi-disciplinary teams situated in each county across the State, meth production was cut back by 25 percent last year. Washington State has dropped from second in the Nation to sixth in the production of meth. The comprehensive, holistic approach my State has taken to combat meth is working well, and I believe that our program can be a model for the national fight.

By making intervention, treatment and family support as important as arrests and prosecution, we are effectively overcoming the secondary problems that meth creates by addressing the root causes, not just the social symptoms. By taking this approach we are not simply growing prison populations and pushing the problem to regions not previously impacted by meth, but attacking the growth of the use of this terrible drug.

We in Washington State have also learned that laws restricting the sale of large quantities of precursor drugs such as ephedrine make it more difficult for users to produce meth, and this tactic has reduced the number of clandestine labs in the State.

This approach to fighting meth use has been very successful, but it takes money. And although there has been an explosion in the use of meth, Federal funding has been cut. Each year, States with a growing meth problem are required to go through a politicized process seeking Federal funding through the earmark process. And each year, the funds are being cut.

These challenges to our States mean only one thing: we need to make funding to combat meth permanent. Permanent Federal funding support for meth enforcement and clean-up is critical to the efforts of State and local law enforcement to reduce the use, manufacture and sale of meth.

That is why I am introducing the Confronting Methamphetamines Act of 2004. This bill will create a supplemental grant to augment the Department of Justice's Byrne Formula Grant Program to provide block grants to help States confront their meth problems.

Under my bill, States will be able to apply for a formula grant if they meet two prerequisites: the State must have a comprehensive, long term plan to address methamphetamine use, manufacture and sale; and the State legislature must commit to enacting laws to limit the sales of precursor products (the commercially available products used to make meth, such as ephedrine). Where a State has met these two requirements, that State will be eligible to receive a Federal formula grant.

States have discretion as to how to use the funds. The activities funded may include arrest, lab seizures and clean up, child and family support services, community based education, awareness and prevention, intervention, treatment, Drug Court and Family Drug Court, community policing, the hiring of specially trained law enforcement, State and local health and environmental department support, and prosecution.

The Confronting Methamphetamines Act also provides for planning grants, $100,000 per State, so States can develop long-term strategies to address meth. We have seen in Washington and in other States that comprehensive plans to address all aspects of meth-from use to manufacture to sale-have the best and most efficient results. Through this provision, I want to encourage States to consider the long-term situation when they take the initial steps in combating meth.

To assure that the best practices to confront meth deployed in our local communities are shared across the country, my bill requires the U.S. Attorney General to collect data, to establish a national clearinghouse for best practices in addressing the meth problem, and to provide technical assistance to States or local agencies.

Like the Byrne Formula Grants, distribution to eligible States will be based on State population. The supplemental allocation to an eligible State will be no less than the base amount of $250,000 or 0.25 percent of the amount available for the program, whichever is greater, with the remaining funds allocated to the other eligible States on the basis of the state's relative share of total U.S. population.

The bill authorizes $100 million per fiscal year 2005 and 2006, elevating the funding to $200 million for the subsequent three years, assuring that the funds are available as the meth problem grows and more States become plagued by the problem of meth.

I have received letters supporting this legislation from the Fraternal Order of Police, National Association of Drug Court Professionals, the Police Executive Research Forum, the Washington State's Governor's office, representing State law enforcement, environmental protection, health and human services and the Washington State Methamphetamine Initiative, and the Pierce County Alliance, essentially the epicenter of Washington State's response to methamphetamines. These letters reflect the level and breadth of concern for our law enforcement, drug addiction care providers, the courts and environmental protection agencies.

We have to give a strong signal to the State and local governments that we recognize the meth problems that they are facing, we are committed to support long-term comprehensive strategies to confront the problem, and will assure availability of substantial federal funds to help confront this startlingly rapidly growing problem.

This legislation assures the funding and continuity of Federal support desperately needed by our State and local governments. It assures that States have the opportunity to develop a long-term comprehensive strategy to combat meth, and gives those on the front lines in this battle the flexibility to use the federal dollars as they see fit, consistent with their long-term plan. I urge the Senate to support this bill and plan to work aggressively with the other body to bring it into law as promptly as possible.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the four letters of support be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the additional material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

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