Methamphetamine Hits New York

William T. Stachowski

February 22, 2005

This past week, the New York State Commission on Investigations released a report on the rapidly growing use and manufacture of the illegal and highly addictive drug methamphetamine in New York State. This enlightening report reminds all of us involved in the legislative process that the manufacturing of new illegal drugs continue to be an urgent threat to public health and safety. Without new and tougher laws to combat the threat, New York could become a haven for methamphetamine users and manufacturers, and become the new "Crack" epidemic that ruined millions of familles and wreaked havoc on our social and medical systems.

Recent drug raids in the rural Southern Tier and North Country have found that the drug is manufactured in highly toxic and potentially explosive clandestine laboratories by addicts who put their families, neighbors, police and emergency personnel at extreme risk. The production of methamphetamine in clandestine lab poses severe dangers to first responders and social services workers, who unknowingly enter clandestine labs and suffer injuries after being exposed to toxic chemicals. Residual amounts of methamphetamine and the chemicals used in its production also remain on walls and counters, as well as in clothing and other fabrics, thereby extending these dangers to innocent persons entering former lab sites. As with most drug activity, using and producing methamphetamine leads to criminal activity and violence.

The National Drug Intelligence Center reports that in 2004, 39.6% of state and local law enforcement nationwide identified methamphetamine as their greatest drug threat, surpassing all other controlled substances. According to the New York State Police, between 1989 and 1999, there were only four methamphetamine laboratories found in all of New York State. Since then, the number of labs has risen quickly and steadily, from 8 in 2000 to 19 in 2001, 45 in 2002, and 73 in 2003. The increase of methamphetamine production in New York is due, in part, to the migration of methamphetamine producers from other states where stricter laws prevail. This is a trend that must stop and why the State Legislature will act to severely punish those who participate in this destructive behavior and illegal activities.

The State Commission on Investigations have established clear patterns of methamphetamine use, addiction and production seen in other states, along with the crime and violence associated with the drug. They appropriately concluded that this illegal drug raises the

specter for serious problems in New York in the very near future. New York State’ current laws are inadequate to deal with the growing methamphetamine problem and we in the State Legislature must address this menace immediately and decisively. It is imperative that we take the necessary steps to strengthen our laws, provide state and local law enforcement officials with the tools needed to properly investigate and prosecute methamphetamine users and manufacturers, and increase public awareness of the dangers of methamphetamine use, addiction and manufacture. The State Legislature must consider enactment of new laws that will criminalize the manufacture of methamphetamine as a felony, the unauthorized possession of the precursors ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, and the unauthorized possession of the essential chemicals needed to manufacture methamphetamine.

The war against methamphetamine must be aggressively combated and won. All we have to do is look at the devastating effects of the "Crack" epidemic during the 1980’s and 90’s to see what can happen if we turn our heads. We must be proactive against this societal scourge and we will make the necessary changes to our laws to protect our communities and our families.