AUSTIN EDITION Pawlenty issues plan to fight meth

From staff and news service reports

ST. PAUL -- Gov. Tim Pawlenty promised Monday to wage more than a "Just Say No" campaign against methamphetamine, calling for stiffer penalties for makers of the drug and new steps to curb its production and use.

The Republican governor outlined his four-point plan before a national conference of legislators, law-enforcement officials and other professionals who deal with the drug.

"Meth addiction is the steepest, slipperiest slope known to mankind, and too many are falling off the edge based on ignorance," Pawlenty said. "People need to know this is not crystal meth, it is crystal death. And the death that it brings is slow, it is awful, it is painful, it is corrosive and it is destructive in so many ways."

Methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant that can be made in rudimentary labs out of common products including lye, lithium batteries and anhydrous ammonia, a common farm fertilizer. The process is dangerous and can leave toxic contamination.


The plan Pawlenty expects to present to the Legislature next year seeks to:

Prevent meth use by having schools and other community groups discuss its dangers and by limiting access to over-the-counter medicine often used to make the drug.

Prosecute meth makers with the aid of 10 new state narcotics agents focused on meth only and enact increased penalties for producers. Having meth ingredients with the intent to make the drug would carry a 10-year prison term and an extra five years would be tacked on if children or vulnerable adults are present.

Help local officials clean up sites used as meth labs by creating a state revolving loan fund. Users would be forced to pay restitution, and no buildings or cars used as meth labs could be resold until cleanup is complete.

Develop new treatment protocols to deal with meth users, including those in prison and on probation.

Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi said she hopes the governor can get legislators to act on his proposal. The key to fighting meth is controlling the access to pseudoephedrine, she said.

Austin recently became the first city in the state to limit the number of packages of cold medicine a person can buy at one time.

Austin merchants must also place packages of Sudafed or other products containing ephedrine, pseudoephedrine or phenylpropanolamine behind a checkout counter or inside a locked display case, and they can sell the drugs only to people 18 or older.


Pawlenty said his proposal would cost $3.5 million during the next two years plus an untold amount in added prison costs.

Little in Pawlenty's package is original. Many parts have been debated in the Legislature before. What's new is the priority Pawlenty said he will place on the issue in the upcoming session.

There were 301 labs seized in Minnesota in 2003, about 75 percent of which were in rural or semi-rural areas, according to the state Department of Public Safety.

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