There is a new four-letter word in our communities: "meth." Methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug that, unfortunately, can be easily manufactured using household products and over the counter medications. As easy as it is to produce, its impact on families and communities is devastating.
Meth is so addictive and destructive that users often ignore all other aspects of their lives while they seek to sustain the high. Jobs are lost, homes are torn apart and, in the sad cases where dependents are present, children are neglected. Eventually, meth addiction leads to more criminal actions and violence as users lose control of their lives.
In addition to the very real human impact, the process that produces meth also produces toxins -- about six pounds of dangerous waste to every pound of the drug. When police raid makeshift meth labs, they often encounter debilitated users, neglected children, filthy living spaces, and toxic waste.
In the past five years the scourge of methamphetamine production and use has spread rapidly across the country, leaving in its wake shattered lives and broken homes. While more prevalent in other states, the problem is now growing rapidly in many parts of Upstate New York. Yet New York State is not prepared, lagging far behind other states in its response to meth. In fact ours is the only state in which the manufacture of methamphetamine is not a felony.
I believe the legislature must do everything in its power to help our state win this battle by giving law enforcement officials and community leaders the tools they need to stop the spread of this dangerous drug.
This past week the Senate took an important step in the fight against meth. Among other things we passed legislation that makes meth manufacturing a felony, increases penalties for the possession of a key meth ingredient, and requires behind the counter sale of nonprescription medication used in meth production.
I strongly supported this important legislation. But I believe the legislation we passed in the Senate is only part of the answer.
More anti-meth legislation is working its way through the New York State Assembly. A bill proposed by Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx) takes a truly comprehensive approach to the meth problem.
In addition to many of the punitive actions we enacted in the Senate, this legislation creates a methamphetamine awareness and education program. There is no doubt we have to severely punish meth manufacturers and dealers. But we must also educate children and young adults about the horrendous impact of methamphetamine before they are tempted to try it. Only then will we prevent the spread of this addictive drug and save lives before they are ruined.
The Dinowitz bill would also establish multi-agency emergency response teams that help bust up meth labs. This would allow law enforcement to concentrate on their primary goals as other experts deal with the many safety concerns at meth labs, including environmental hazards and the immediate health needs of neglected children.
The legislation we passed in the Senate was a good first step. But we must realize it is only the first step in what needs to be a multi-pronged approach to this growing problem. With a comprehensive approach, we can stop the spread of meth before more lives are ruined and families are destroyed.