Several states have started websites listing the names of convicted methamphetamine manufacturers. Tennessee started the first online registry in 2005 with a list of about 400 names. Georgia, Oklahoma, Washington and West Virginia followed shortly after. Oregon has gone as far as to alert residents when a meth-maker in their area is released from prison. Montana lists its known meth manufacturers on the sex offender registry and does not bother to distinguish between the two.
Methamphetamine goes by a variety of monikers: crystal meth, ice, glass and speed are just a few. The ingredients to make meth are strictly controlled by federal guidelines.
Some of those ingredients, pseudoephedrine, ephedrine and phenylephrine are contained in a variety of cold and allergy medicines. Once sold over the counter, tablets containing these chemicals are now dispensed sparingly in most states and only after customers present identification and sign a log with each purchase. Oklahoma was the first to ban the sale of over-the-counter cold and allergy tablets.
The notion of meth offender registration is believed to have begun with property owners who were tired of having their houses and apartments destroyed by meth cooks. Every chemical used to manufacture meth is toxic. Just the smell from combining those ingredients can destroy a house or apartment. Research suggests that six pounds of toxic waste results from every pound of meth produced. This waste goes into the air as fumes or down the drain as chemicals. In a worst case scenario the cooking process can result in a violent explosion.
Oklahoma officials estimated each meth user represents a $350,000 cost to the state. Costs include $54,000 for treatment, $12,000 in child welfare services and $3,500 to decontaminate manufacturing sites.
Legal questions have been broached as to the constitutionality of meth registries. Graham Boyd, director of the ACLU's Drug Policy Litigation Project claims that listing a meth-offender for years after his conviction is classified as extra punishment which is "not allowed under our Constitution."
However, the reality is that this same argument failed to sway the U.S. Supreme Court when it was raised by sex offenders. It is unlikely that meth offenders will garnish more sympathy.
"We want to arm citizens with information, so they can protect themselves and their communities," said Brian McClung, spokesman for Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty who created that state's meth registry in December 2006.
But Gov. Pawlenty finds himself opposed by some high ranking officials. Minnesota State Attorney General Mike Hatch, who has a reputation for being tough on drug issues, describes the meth registry as a good way for dealers and users to keep in touch.
"What better place to find a meth dealer than on Internet Website," Hatch was quoted as saying in July 2006.
It is worth noting that Hatch also opposed Pawlenty in the bid for governor. Still, others like Boyd agree with him.
"One group for whom this registry is going to be an incredibly good resource is people looking to buy methamphetamine," says Boyd.
Some studies point to the fact that meth use is far from the epidemic it's made out to be.
Research shows that on the list of abused drugs methamphetamine is one of the rarest used. Meth use stabilizes among adult users. Neither has there been a dramatic increase among first-time users over time.
So why the meth-mania? Certainly there is the convenient public mantra of being tough on crime. But the likely motivation is the $400 million federal grant offered to states who find and eliminate meth labs. Hiding behind the illusion of public safety, state officials are able to milk federal coffers to solve a miniscule if not non-existent epidemic.
The number of meth labs actually seized nationwide has decreased between 1999 and 2004. Over 17,000 labs were found in 2003; only 12,000 were found in 2009 according to a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) report.
Probably the most ridiculous reflection of the idea of registering meth manufacturers is the fact that none of the agencies involved actually do anything to ensure the accuracy of their information. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigations attaches a disclaimer to its registry to alert users that addresses may not be accurate because they don't verify their information. And unlike sex offenders, meth offenders are not required to register personally. Their information is simply forwarded from one state agency to another.
Critics of meth registration have noted that most states cannot even keep track of sex offenders who refuse to register. Lawmakers are now compounding the problem with the impossible task of trying to keep track of tens of thousands of drug makers as well.
Neither is there any reason to believe that putting their names on the internet will deter drug makers from plying their trade or become responsible citizens.
PLN has often noted that paranoia-inspired registration laws accomplish little, waste tax dollars and endanger the civil rights of every citizen. If reason does not prevail over irrational legislation our most personal business will eventually become internet fodder.
Sources: seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/287529 methreg09.html, USA Today, www.isp.state.11.us/meth/, www.tennesseeanytime.org/ methor
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