Ninth District Congressman Adam Smith is aggressively working to obtain funding and pass legislation to address the growing methamphetamine lab problem in the South Puget Sound region.
“Between 1999 and 1998, the number of meth labs and dumpsites reported in Washington state more than doubled,” Smith said. “It is absolutely critical that we take action to combat this serious problem.”
According to the Western State Information Network, Pierce County has one of the worst meth problems in the West Coast. “Methamphetamine labs cause many problems, not the least of which is that they create illegal drugs that destroy people’s lives,” Smith explained. “Furthermore, they create an enormous public health risk and cleanup costs are estimated to be close to $25,000 per site.”
As former Chair of the State Senate Law and Justice Committee and a city prosecutor, Smith recognizes there are important actions needed to fight the meth problem by the federal government.
On March 29, the House approved a $15 million earmark in the COPS program to specifically policing initiatives to combat methamphetamine production and trafficking. Late last month, Attorney General Janet Reno approved an additional $10 million dollars to be appropriated to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration to be used to fight the growing Methamphetamine problem throughout the nation. This appropriation is waiting to approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) before it is finalized.
However, Smith argues that “more action is needed.” One of his priorities is to obtain a $15 million grant for the Methamphetamine Initiative Project. The project is sponsored by the Coalition to Abate and Defeat Methamphetamine, which includes members of local law enforcement, county and city prosecutors, the Washington State Departments of Health and Ecology, and representatives from public health and safety organizations. The project will work to systematically address all aspects of meth use and production.
Smith recently submitted an Appropriations request for the Methamphetamine Initiative. “I will be working closely with my colleagues on the Appropriations Committee to try to get this funding,” he said.
Smith has also cosponsored two bills to assist law enforcement agencies in their fight against meth labs.
The Methamphetamine Response and Training Act creates a pilot program that puts federal personnel and resources in the field for a fixed amount of time to assist local police in shutting down meth labs. It charges the federal teams with the dual goals of directly assisting local law enforcement and of training state and local police, thereby creating more long-term solutions to the problem.
The Methamphetamine Response and Training Act sets up a limited pilot program that puts federal personnel and resources in the field for a fixed amount of time to assist local police in shutting down meth labs. The Methamphetamine Incident Response and Training Teams (MIRTT) would be responsible for the following:
• Provide training to state and local law enforcement personnel in investigating, responding to, and prosecuting methamphetamine-related crimes.
• Provide certification and recertification standards in responding to sites used in the production of methamphetamine if they have not already been established by state or local law enforcement personnel.
• Teams will be put in the field for a minimum of 2 years and maximum of 5 years to assist local police in shutting down meth labs.
Smith is also a cosponsor of the Working and Reacting (WAR) Against Meth Act, which would:
• Raise penalties for amphetamine manufacture, distribution, important, and export to mirror those of methamphetamine;
• Increase the penalty for endangering human life and creates penalties for endangering the environment during methamphetamine/amphetamine manufacturing;
• Establishes the National Center for Methamphetamine Clandestine Laboratory Information to college, analyze, and distribute lab seizure information.
“Fighting meth labs is a critical issue for the South Puget Sound region,” Smith noted. “I am fully committed to ensuring that the federal government is an effective partner with our local law enforcement agencies in combating this problem.”