Meth fight joined

Salazar proposes bill to limit sale of a main ingredient

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The Craig City Council's decision to regulate the sale of products that contain the ingredients to cook methamphetamine mirrors proposed legislation recently unveiled by congressional lawmakers to combat meth in rural areas.

U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., is co-sponsoring a bipartisan bill to limit the sale of pseudoephedrine -- a main ingredient in making meth -- and provide law enforcement with more funds to investigate meth-related drug charges.

In a press release, Salazar said that when he was Colorado's attorney general, the number of meth labs seized in Colorado increased by 1,300 percent between 1997 and 2000.

"This underlines that meth-related crime is a growing problem in Colorado," he said.

The Combat Meth Act, introduced by Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo, would provide $15 million to the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, an arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, to train state and local law enforcement officers to investigate and prosecute meth offenders. In addition, it also would provide $10 million -- $5 million to hire new federal prosecutors as well as train local and state prosecutors in drug laws; and $5 million to provide services for children affected by meth use.

The bill also aims to boost meth rehabilitation treatment options and to research better ways to rehabilitate meth users.

"It's a great start to get money to law enforcement centers," said Cody Wertz, press secretary for Salazar.

"Obviously, we have rural areas that really need the meth training and need it now."

Wertz said the bill probably would be debated in the Senate during the next several months. But its bipartisan support and nod from a number of House members make it seem promising, he said.

Annette Gianinetti of the Moffat County Sheriff's Office said, if passed, the bill could help bolster an anti-meth use group local law enforcement officials have initiated. However, it is unclear how much of the bill's allocation would trickle down to the local level.

Gianinetti cited a need for local rehabilitation options. Currently people have to travel to Glenwood Springs, Grand Junction or the Front Range for treatment.

"Rehab is a huge issue," she said. "It's one of the biggest."

The recently formed C.O.M.A group, or Communities Overcoming Meth Abuse, has similar goals of providing education and information about meth use in the hopes of prompting prevention.

The group has applied for nonprofit status, recently established its bylaws and has organized into subcommittees, Gianinetti said.

But the proposed bill may be an indicator that increased meth awareness is prompting change, she said.

"Awareness as a whole, brings to light different aspects of meth that we need to address," Gianinetti said. "We need to take care of the problems that come up in our community."

Officials from the Moffat County Sheriff's Office have said that the county's biggest percentage of crimes are drug-related.

In a move similar to the bill, city councilors passed an ordinance recently that requires stores to keep products that contain pseudoephedrine or ephedrine stashed behind the counter. Meth task force committee members drafted the ordinance.

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