Oregon's meth law praised as solution to national epidemic
Published: Tuesday, July 24, 2012, 7:57 PM Updated: Tuesday, July 24, 2012, 8:43 PM
Charles Pope, The Oregonian By Charles Pope, The Oregonian
WASHINGTON – Oregon’s desperate response to combating a methamphetamine epidemic by making the crucial ingredient a prescription drug has worked so well it should be used nationwide, a House subcommittee was told Tuesday.
But while state and federal law enforcement officials agreed the landmark 2006 law is a success and the number of meth labs in Oregon has sharply declined, members of a House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee reacted skeptically during a hearing Tuesday.
“There’s no question it would help the problem,” subcommittee chair Rep. Tray Gowdy, R-S.C., said in an interview after the hearing.
“But I am vexed a little bit that with the success of Oregon and Mississippi the other 48 states haven’t said, ‘There’s the answer’,” Gowdy said, adding that he hopes to schedule a hearing soon but would not commit to legislation.
Rob Bovett, district attorney for Oregon’s Lincoln County and an expert on fighting meth and the state’s novel response had a ready answer – heavy spending by the pharmaceutical industry has drowned opposition in most states where the proposal has been considered.
“We simply can’t compete with that,” Bovett told the subcommittee. Nationalizing Oregon’s law would severely restrict the base ingredient for meth and set aside a patchwork and ineffective collections of laws nationwide. “We don’t need any more band-aids on this gaping wound,” he told the subcommittee. “We need a real solution.”
But the politics are complicated and the interests opposing a nationwide law are well financed.
Bovett told the subcommittee the “parade of horrors” that were predicted by opponents have not materialized in Oregon. He also acknowledged that simply stopping domestic production would not end the meth crisis because Mexico remains the largest source of the drug.
“We’ve gone through 35 years of trauma when it comes to pseudoephedrine,” Bovett said. “It’s time we enact a real solution.”
Four law enforcement officials involved in the meth battle joined Bovett to testify about strategies for defeating the increasing problem of methamphetamine production and use. And while they came from California and Mississippi, South Carolina and Missouri, they all agreed that forcing people to have a doctor’s prescription to obtain pseudo ephedrine would dramatically reduce the domestic meth supply.
Oregon’s law and a similar one in Mississippi “essentially returns these products to their proper role in the marketplace as excellent cold medicines, rather than the key ingredients for a dangerous, toxic, and highly-addictive narcotic,” Donald Dorsey of South Carolina’s Law Enforcement Division told the subcommittee.
“If we are serious about combating domestic meth production, Congress must pass legislation returning ephedrine and pseudo ephedrine to prescription only,” he said. “We have seen the absolute success of this approach in Oregon and Mississippi as meth production has plummeted in those states.”
Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden is drafting legislation that would extend Oregon’s law nationwide. But he has no plans to introduce it until the chances for success improve.
“We’re continuing to talk to people because the problem remains very serious,” Wyden said Tuesday in an interview.
The law “has made a big difference” in Oregon. “But we’ll have tremendous opposition just as we had in earlier iterations. We’re looking for ways to build political momentum,” he said.(continued)http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/inde ... er_default