Thursday, July 10, 2008

Texas' anti-meth law shifted production to Mexico; prevention and treatment underfunded

At a Senate Criminal Justice Committee hearing yesterday, DPS officials said that restrictions on pseudoephedrine purchases dramatically declined after the Legislature required stores to keep the product behind the counter in 2005.

But a reduction in domestic production doesn't mean demand for meth has declined, just that the supply is coming from elsewhere - mostly from Mexico. According to the Brownsville Herald ("Officials fear new meth epidemic after record setting bust," June 28), police recently captured a 211 pound shipment of meth heading north from Mexico through the Rio Grande Valley, spotlighting an ironic trend where Mexican cartels have become the primary beneficiaries of the new law:

In 2005, Texas introduced its own measures restricting the purchase of products containing the drug's precursors. That prompted a nearly 73 percent decrease in lab seizures in Texas, according to statistics provided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

It also drove production south, where Mexican drug cartels began producing enormous quantities to meet the ever-present demand, officials said. The Valley, a major corridor for drug trafficking, naturally became a highway for meth distribution.

"Through various chemical control programs we have been successful in reducing the amount of meth produced in the U.S.," said Will Glasby, a local official with the DEA. "That's leaving the Mexican drug cartel as the primary source for the majority of the meth in the U.S."

Brandi Grissom at the El Paso Times has good coverage of the portion of yesterday's hearing on drug policy ("Texas committee discusses drug enforcement, prevention," July 10):

Needs for treatment far outweigh the $38 million Texas spends for drug programs, said Mike Maples, director of mental health and substance abuse services at the Texas Department of State Health Services. Texas currently provides treatment to between 3 percent and 7 percent of the uninsured addicts who seek rehabilitation, he said.

"We have quite a large waiting list," he said.

But for every dollar spent on prevention, Maples said, Texas could save more than $5 from the negative economic impacts of drug use.

Gary Larcenaire, executive director of El Paso Mental Health Mental Retardation, said in a phone interview that prisons have become de facto treatment centers for drug addicts.

"We could use those resources to treat people in the community," he said.

Preventing drug use could also help reduce the demand for narcotics that fuels cartel violence in Juarez and across Mexico, El Paso County District Attorney Jaime Esparza said in a phone interview.

Drug abuse may never stop, and law enforcement will have to control the supply, he said, but the criminal justice system isn't the "end all."


Anonymous said...

Why not take this model of "behind the counter" medicine one more step... surely there are lots of prescription meds that dont really REALLY need a doctor's order...

Moving those drugs out of the realm of "prescription only" will reduce the cost of healthcare for everyone and keep the doctors focusing on more serious health concerns.

What could possibly go wrong?

Anonymous said...

If the lege, and the liberal illuminiti, would agree that it should be added to 42.12 that no offender can get probation/deferred without mandatory safpf as a condition.

Same if they take pen time instead of treatment, which is the standard choice by most drug offenders, even if the state jail or pen time is much longer than safpf would be. They would have to successfully complete a 6 month stint in safpf rehab before they could begin their tdcj sentence.

The present situation is ineffective. Defendants, who listen to the "very knowledgeable" jailhouse lawyers, will almost always choose a 12 to 18 month state jail sentence over a a three year probation with safpf.

They wanna get high. No amount of rehab is gonna help until they wanna get straight.

No amount of pouring money on the problem (the democratic way) is gonna solve the problem.