SID SALTER: Breaking Good: Mississippi’s anti-meth law works

SID SALTER

SID SALTER

While the country was mesmerized by high school chemistry teacher Walter White’s descent into ruin in the TV series “Breaking Bad,” the truth is that methamphetamine manufacture is a filthy, dangerous and soul-crushing affair.

Mississippi gets smacked around pretty good when people compare indices of economic progress, education, health outcomes and income. Our people get pretty tired of hearing the latest measure in which our state ranks 50th.

But there’s a new example in which Mississippi was among national leaders in an initiative to do something proactive to impede the manufacture of methamphetamine in Mississippi – an enterprise that had reached epidemic proportions prior to the courageous 2010 act of the Mississippi Legislature in adopting key legislation to make meth manufacture substantially more difficult in the state.

The Legislature passed a law establishing that a prescription is required to buy pseudoephedrine products in Mississippi. The state became the second to pass such a measure, joining Oregon.

By 2010, methamphetamine had become the new moonshine in Mississippi. It’s relatively easy to make, the precursors were cheap and readily available at a lot of locations in even the smallest Mississippi towns and the demand for the drug was high.

Just as poor Mississippians got into the whiskey still business during hard times in the state’s past, poor Mississippians also were making meth not simply for consumption themselves but for retail opportunities as well.

So were garden variety drug dealers and other assorted thugs who choose to profit off the misery of others. I well recall accompanying law enforcement officers on a drug raid and seeing an infant in a dirty diaper crawling on the floor amid buckets of caustic chemicals in a “shake and bake” meth lab in a private home.

With that in mind, if would have seemed that passing such legislation would have been a political slam dunk. It wasn’t. Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics Director Marshall Fisher became at once the chief cheerleader of the new law and the chief punching bag for its opponents.

Fisher told lawmakers in 2010 that meth was Mississippi’s top drug problem – surpassing even powder and crack cocaine.

That’s why the Legislature’s apparent decision to make over-the-counter cold remedy medications containing pseudoephedrine prescription-only drugs is such a huge victory for drug enforcement in this state.

During the legislative battle, many otherwise solid citizens argued vehemently that they should not be inconvenienced or burdened by the additional expense of the new law by having to get a prescription for medicines they were procuring and using in a legal manner. They argued that making over-the-counter cold remedy medications containing pseudoephedrine prescription-only drugs punished law-abiding citizens rather than drug dealers and drug users.

But lawmakers also heard from child advocates and law enforcement officers who told them that where you find meth manufacture and consumption, you will also find child abuse, child molestation, child neglect, prostitution and a host of other societal evils.

Three years later, MBN says the number of operational meth labs in Mississippi have declined 97 percent. Mississippi is now a leading state in the reduction of meth labs. Mississippi, it seems, is “breaking good” in its approach to making life hard on meth dealers.

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist.Contact him at (601) 507-8004 or sidsalter@sidsalter.com.

  • Kevin

    So State College’s “journalist-in-residence” had to get in on the Breaking Bad phenomenon, huh?

  • Winston Smith

    I’m glad that the meth problem in our state has gown down, but now none of the over the counter drugs from musinex to sutefed do anything to help sinus trouble.

    • ultracreep

      Yes, and now people who are uninsured have to go pay a doctor to get a prescription for what used to be over the counter all because some toothless morons want to ruin their lives.

      • Kevin

        Meth hasn’t gone down dramatically, Winston Smith, and if it has gone down at all, it’s probably because of hard times rather than what Sid Salter says. As ultracreep stated, people will find a way to get their hard drugs and if Sid Salter had actually watched any breaking bad episodes, he’d realize this.