Bipartisan Group Develops Anti-Meth Package

Representative Greg Machperson is a second term legislator representing Lake Oswego and SW Portland.

Macphereson_1

A bipartisan group of legislators working on the response to the meth epidemic unveiled its work this past week. I am one of the four members of the Judiciary Committees of the House and Senate who crafted legislation over the past month to deal with methamphetamine abuse. The group includes a Republican and a Democrat from each Committee.

Some 36 bills addressing various aspects of meth abuse were introduced in the 2005 session. The bipartisan group consolidated many of those ideas into a package, which will be amended into Senate Bill 907 and House Bill 2485.

These meth bills include all three of the main approaches to any drug abuse problem: prevention, interdiction, and treatment. But they also feature some strategies especially designed for meth.

The work group focused on the harmful impacts of meth use on children. We learned that Oregon has a major problem with small-time "meth labs" operated in rental houses and apartments. We also learned that meth use is disproportionately high among women of child-bearing age. As a result, kids are exposed to contaminants in the home where their mother, and her male friends, cook meth.

To better protect kids, the bills add exposure to meth as a specific basis for a criminal conviction of child neglect in the first degree and increase the range of sentence length for that crime when meth is involved. They add meth exposure, resulting in a child being drug affected, to the definition of child abuse that public and private officials are legally required to report. They authorize a domestic relations court to consider abuse of alcohol or controlled substances, including meth, in decisions on parenting time.

The criminal penalties for manufacturing meth and for selling large quantities of it are to be stiffened. Here too the bills focus on meth labs, which contaminate houses and apartments and those (including kids) who live there. Possession or disposal of meth waste would become a new crime.

In a change that will probably meet resistance from makers of cold remedies, the work group proposed an outright ban on the sale in Oregon of hard tablet cold remedies containing pseudoephedrine, the active ingredient extracted to make meth. Such tablets are the main raw material used in local meth labs. The liquid and "gel-cap" forms of pseudoephedrine would remain available for sale because they have not, so far, been found in meth labs.

The proposal calls for alternative incarceration programs within the corrections system, with incentives for meth-addicted offenders to undergo treatment in order to shorten their sentences. It also calls for better funding of special drug courts to manage the treatment of offenders convicted of possession of illegal drugs.

The meth package will be presented in bill form to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees in the next week or two, with hearings to gather comments from the public. A fiscal analysis of the cost will be developed at the same time.

June 1, 2005 by Greg Macpherson
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