FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 2, 2004
Schumer: New Data Shows Westchester Becoming Vulnerable To Crystal Meth – Must Clamp Down Before Drug Becomes The New Crack
Joined by DA Jeanine Pirro, Schumer unveils new report showing that easy-to-make drug is sweeping US suburbs with 90 in the Hudson Valley seeking treatment for crystal meth abuse last year – 28 in Westchester alone
US Senator Charles E. Schumer today released new statistics and warning signs cautioning that crystal meth could become a serious problem in Westchester County and the Hudson Valley – and unveiled a new plan to nip the problem in the bud and prevent a repeat of 1980s-era mistakes that missed the early warning signs of the crack epidemic. Schumer was joined by Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro.
"It's 1984 all over again," Schumer said, noting that was the year just before the crack epidemic exploded. "Twenty years ago, crack was headed east across the United States like a Mack Truck out of control, and it slammed New York hard because we just didn't see the warning signs. Well, the headlights are glaring bright off in the distance again, this time with meth taking route in suburban communities like Westchester. We are still paying the price of missing the warning signs back then, and if we don't remember our history we will be doomed to repeat it, because crystal meth could become the crack of the 21st century."
District Attorney Pirro said, “Law enforcement must continue to be vigilant in preventing the manufacture and distribution of all illegal narcotics. Through early interdiction and education, we can significantly reduce the likelihood that this drug will become an epidemic in our community.”
The drug methamphetamine is a highly addictive and easy-to-obtain synthetic central nervous system stimulant that is currently classified as a Schedule II controlled substance. It is widely abused throughout the United States and is distributed under many street names, including "crystal meth", "crank", "meth", "crystal", "tina", "crissy" and "speed." It is commonly sold in white powder form that dissolves in water, but has been distributed in colorful tablets or as crystals and sold as "glass" or "ice."
Methamphetamine can be smoked, snorted, injected or taken orally or anally. Meth is psychologically addictive, and users become paranoid and unpredictable. Meth causes extreme fatigue in the long term, loss of appetite, psychotic behavior and brain damage similar to Alzheimer's disease.
Meth has plagued the West Coast and rural America for more than a decade, but only recently began making mainstream headway in New York. In the past year, the DEA has seen meth seizures surge by 31% across the state. According to the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, in 2003, 1152 addicts sought treatment for meth abuse in New York State, up 24% from 928 in 2002 and 59% from 723 in 2001. Last year, 28 addicts in Westchester County and 90 throughout the Hudson Valley sought treatment for meth abuse.
Schumer said that the proliferation of methamphetamine use in New York is due to a surge in the number of so-called "mom-and pop" labs where large quantities of methamphetamine are produced throughout the State, mostly in suburban and rural communities. Law enforcement officials have identified three of these labs in the Hudson Valley in the last five years, part of a growing trend in which the number of meth labs in the State has been almost doubling on a yearly basis.
Schumer staff found that an Internet search for "how to make crystal meth" returned 55,200 hits. Meth can be manufactured using common and inexpensive household products including camp fuel, iodine, drain cleaner and similar products. Approximately $100 in materials can be combined to produce $1,000 worth of methamphetamine.
To get ahead of the curve and apply the lessons learned when New York did not do enough to prevent the crack epidemic 20 years ago, Schumer today outlined a comprehensive plan to fight meth. Schumer's plan will:
In May, Schumer introduced a bill in Congress that would make the penalties for selling meth the same as for selling crack cocaine. The bill will make the threshold amounts of meth which trigger tough federal penalties the same as those for crack cocaine. Under the Schumer bill, all meth and crack cocaine dealers will be treated the same regardless of the purity of the drug. Currently, a dealer who sells 50 or more grams of any substance containing a detectable amount of crack now faces a 10 years in jail to life. Someone who sells 5 grams faces a 5 years to 40 years and someone who sells less than 5 grams can face up to 20 years in jail. Schumer's bill matches it for meth.
Schumer is also cosponsoring a bipartisan proposal, the Methamphetamine Blister Pack Loophole Elimination Act, to close a major loophole that aids meth production. Under current federal law, it is illegal to sell more than 9 grams of any bottled pseudoephedrine product, including cold medicine, at one time – far more than would ever be needed for a bad case of the flu. But current law places no limit on the amount of loose pseudoephedrine tablets which can be individually wrapped in large packages known as "blister packs." As a result, meth manufacturers can buy hundreds of cold medicine pills and combine them with other commonly available ingredients to make meth. This bill simply applies the existing 9 gram limit that is already on bottle pseudoephedrine tablets to blister packs as well.
In May 2004, County Executive Andrew Spano introduced a bill into the Westchester County Legislature that would restrict the bulk sale of cold and cough medication that contains the active ingredient for making crystal meth. It applies to the blister packs and tablets, because of the loophole in the federal law.
Schumer said that his plan helps communities, law enforcement and prosecutors to fight and treat methamphetamine abuse."Crystal meth is becoming the new crack - its spreading into Westchester communities and we have to provide local law enforcement, parents and community members with the tools to fight back. We need to close the loophole that helps make making crystal meth even easier than making crack, and we need federal funds for prevention, treatment, and care," Schumer said. Schumer was joined by Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro and Anthony P. Placido, DEA special agent in charge.