Cantwell gathers support for attack on meth use

U. S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) met with local law enforcement officials on Thursday, to gather information and profess support for funds to fight methamphetamine use.

“The administration doesn’t have a clear picture of the severity of this problem and how it needs to be attacked,” Cantwell said. “There is a misperception about its importance, that could be geographic. All of Congress hasn’t been unified, and there are many who live in other parts of the country where it hasn’t become an issue.”

Cantwell’s strategy includes an effort to explore how meth use drives identity theft, a crime which all her colleagues understand.

Cantwell stated that the Fiscal Year 2007 budget proposal calls for an 80 percent cut to the primary federal programs that help local communities combat the spread of meth. She said the proposed cuts would hamper law enforcement’s ability to target area labs, prosecute meth-related crimes, and crack down on meth trafficking.

Cantwell met with Prosecuting Attorney Russ Hauge, Undersheriff Dennis Bonneville, Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman and Bremerton Fire Chief Al Duke at the Bremerton Fire Department.

Hauge outlined a loose demographic for meth users: Generally rural, 19-40, lower middle class, and white. He said that the number of local labs has decreased due to restrictions on the chemicals needed to make meth, but this has not declined.

Hauge said that most of the local meth comes from labs in Canada and Mexico.

“Meth users are so addled they have trouble remembering appointments with their defense attorney,” he said, indicating that it is a higher priority to arrest the dealers.

Bonneville, who said that more than 90 percent of prisoners in the county jail are meth offenders, said that federal funding is the glue that holds the anti-meth efforts together.

“The drug problem has not gone away,” he said. “We can’t do less, we need to do more. And if we are going to do more we need to have more resources.”

Throughout, there was a notion that the drug war cannot be won, and the problem won’t be solved with increased law enforcement allocations.

“It boils down to prevention and awareness,” Bozeman said. “We need to get kids off on the right foot and value them as human beings. That’s the only answer, and we’ve known it for 30 years. It’s all about values. We need to take care of kids earlier, and turn them into better human beings.”

Hauge, however, was pleased; saying of Cantwell “she really cares what happens here on the ground.”

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