By Dave Donaldson
Legislators today began work to come up with new legislation and a re-direction of state money to deal with Alaska’s current fight against the illegal presence of methamphetamine. The step follows up on laws passed in 2006 that focused on the home-based manufacture of the drug.
Deputy Attorney General Rick Svobodny heads the Department of Law’s Criminal Division. He reported that the new law has worked by restricting access to the basic ingredients of meth – primarily pseudophedrine available as cold and sinus medicine. He said the number of meth labs found and closed by the state has decreased from thirty seven in 2005 to nine last year.
However, he told the House Judiciary Committee that the illegal sale and use of meth has increased since the law was enacted. He says that indicates it is being imported – and that the consumption is spreading throughout the state.
Matsu Republican Carl Gatto said that those results come as no surprise to anyone who was involved in working on the 2006 bill. Lawmakers at the time had no illusions that they would diminish use of the drug.
We were after taking care of the issue of contaminated sites, fires, abuse of children, abuse of spouses, and said If we can get that, we’ll take it – even if we can’t get the reduction in the consumption. And maybe that’s why we’re here. To see if there’s anything, any avenue we can pursue that would reduce consumption.
Public Safety Commissioner Audie Holloway said the imported meth now being sold on the streets originates in Mexico – and it’s more concentrated that the home-made meth of five years ago.
The lines of geography have changed a little bit when it comes to drugs in Alaska. We basically share a border with Mexico. Cause we get drugs through all modes of transportation that originate in some fashion or another in Mexico or by the control of Mexican drug trafficking organizations. We can’t say we’re too far away to be affected, because we certainly are.
Svobodny said the criminal justice system is not able to deal with addiction. It becomes a health problem for society to deal with.
The committee hopes to prepare its recommendations in time for the governor to include them in next year’s budget and legislative agenda.