EDITORIAL: Meth lab cleanup

By NEMS Daily Journal

Mississippi began marking nationally noted success in reducing illegal methamphetamine production after July 1, 2010, when state law began requiring a prescription for a common, formerly over-the-counter drug used in meth production.
Those gains, however, may be compromised if funding for meth lab cleanup is eliminated from the 2011 federal budget. The labs, once destroyed, leave dangerous chemical residues that are personally and environmentally poisonous.
Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics director Marshall Fisher, in a Monday article by Danza Johnson, said lab cleanup costs between $2,500 and $25,000.
Mississippi and federal agents destroyed 700 meth labs in 2010, which multiplies to a multi-million dollar undertaking.
If federal funds are not restored the costs of cleanup as well as enforcement will fall on state and local law enforcement. Mississippi is in the top five states in cleanup costs with Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, and Michigan.
DEA in Mississippi has stopped issuing authorizing numbers for lab cleanup because its funds are dried up.
Elimination of the cleanup funding in the federal budget comes from President Obama’s executive budget, an instance in which federal reduction doesn’t necessarily translate to savings for states’ taxpayers.
While the prescription-only drug law for pseudoephedrine in Mississippi has cut meth production by 67 percent, it won’t eliminate the problem. DEA reports prescription forgeries, doctor-shopping, and supplies of pseudoephedrine also come to Mississippi from Mexico.
Some consider future funding unlikely, but that may not be the case if enough senators and representatives from states where meth labs are a problem seek funding restoration.
U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., explained the issue.
“I believe federal support for state and local methamphetamine control initiatives has been useful, and I have been supportive of providing federal resources for them,” Cochran said. “However, Congress is now faced with the need to rein in discretionary spending and all programs will be put on the table. I will work with my colleagues to ensure that methamphetamine control programs are given fair consideration.”
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., had similar thoughts, “Cuts to federal spending need to make sense, but difficult decisions must be made. … At the same time, methamphetamine production remains a threat to our communities. The efforts made at the state level to stop production have been significant.”
At least for a while, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality will pay for the cleanup of labs that MBN takes down.
After the state funds are exhausted, some other course action will have to be taken, and no one knows what that is.