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Senators announce plan to strengthen meth enforcement

WORTHINGTON -- Senators Norm Coleman, R-Minnesota, Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, and Jim Talent, R-Missouri, announced via conference call Thursday a plan to strengthen methamphetamine enforcement provisions in the Patriot Act.

The federal Combat Meth Act provides new tools to states, local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to combat the production and distribution of meth by restricting the sale of the drug's primary ingredients.

Methamphetamine abuse is having "an incredible impact throughout our state, particularly in rural communities," Coleman said. Minnesota already has strict restrictions in place for the sale of medicines used to manufacture meth, he added, but federal guidelines are still welcome.

"For Minnesota, the impact is we're not going to be quite as worried about what happens in other states which don't have this legislation," Coleman said. "We're concerned not only about our own state, but the manufacturing of meth that might happen in other states."

The proposed legislation restricts the sale of ingredients used to cook meth, strengthens international enforcement of meth trafficking, and increases community awareness. Supporters say the Combat Meth Act makes critical funding available to states for additional equipment, law enforcement training and prosecutors as well as for clean-up of meth labs.

Medicines containing pseudoephedrine, ephedrine and phenylpropanolamine would be placed behind pharmacy counters, requiring purchasers to show identification and sign a logbook. Purchases would be limited to 9 grams a month and 3.6 grams in a single day.

The bill also imposes tougher penalties for meth cooks as well as a $20 million grant in 2006 and 2007 for Drug Endangered Children rapid response teams to promote collaboration among agencies.

Coleman, Kyl and Talent said methamphetamine abuse places enormous pressure on law enforcement agencies, fire departments and human services. Meth labs bring with them a tremendous human cost, they said, tearing down entire families.

In Minnesota, said Coleman, there has been a 65 percent increase in out-of-home placements strictly because of methamphetamine abuse.

Worthington Director of Public Safety Mike Cumiskey said that according to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), 85 percent of meth is transported into Minnesota from other states -- most notably from Texas and California -- and also from Mexico.

"Meth is the No. 1 drug problem in Minnesota, period," Cumiskey said. "We'd welcome any help the federal government could give us on meth and its transportation. Hopefully, this (Combat Meth Act) will speed up the rest of the states to do what Minnesota has already done."

Last Friday, senators Talent and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., announced the Combat Meth Act was included in a compromise reached on the USA-Patriot Act Reauthorization Conference Report. The full Senate is expected to vote soon on its passage.

"The finish line is in sight," said Feinstein in a press release. "With this agreement on the Patriot Act, Congress is but a step away from passing the most significant anti-meth bill in a decade."

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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