Schumer: New Stats Show Crystal Meth Quickly Becoming The New Crack Seizures In New York Up 31% Over Last Year

Increasingly popular in NYC clubs and suburbs, Schumer says we must nip problem in the bud and prevent repeat of 1980s mistakes that missed early warning signs of crack epidemicStanding with New York DEA Chief, Schumer proposes tough new penalties, closing loopholesand dollars for education, treatment and prevention nowAddictive, deadly and easy to make - 73 meth labs were

As methamphetamine use begins to skyrocket in New York, US Senator Charles E. Schumer was joined by the Special Agent in Charge of the US Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) New York Field Division, Anthony P. Placido, at DEA headquarters today to unveil a new plan to nip the problem in the bud and prevent a repeat of 1980sera mistakes that missed the early warning signs of the crack epidemic.

Schumer's plan would sharply increase penalties for dealing the drug to make them equivalent to crack, close a loophole crystal meth makers exploit to purchase the key raw ingredient for the drug in bulk, and get New York millions of dollars in Federal funds for crystal meth education, prevention, and treatment.

"It's 1984 all over again," Schumer said, noting that was the year just before the crack epidemic exploded in New York City. "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. 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 crustal meth could become the new crack."

The drug methamphetamine is a highly addictive and easytoobtain 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 pumps dopamine into the brain to increase stamina, decrease inhibitions and give a high that can last for days. Unlike the rush associated with crack cocaine which lasts for approximately 2 to 5 minutes, the methamphetamine rush can continue for 5 to 30 minutes and is followed by a period of binging when the user continues to smoke or inject the drug for 3 to 15 days. After a period of "tweaking" when nothing the user does will take away the feeling of emptiness addicts crash for 1 to 3 days because their body's adrenaline has been completely depleted, and the body uses the crash to replenish its supply. 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.

Schumer staff this week 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. Federal law already requires retailers to limit the number of bottles of overthecounter cold medicines containing the key meth ingredient pseudoephedrine sold to one person. But if the pills are sold in the morecommon boxandblisterpack combination, the ban does not apply a major loophole.

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. Prosecutors in the US Attorney's office in Manhattan also have handled more than 30 arrests linked to meth in the past six months, compared to just 11 arrests in all of 2003. Over the past six months, more than $2.5 million worth of meth has been confiscated from dealers in the cases handled by Manhattan federal prosecutors. In 2001, there were no meth overdoses reported in New York City, but the City Health Department reported approximately 50 for 2002 and 2003.

Meth is even more of a problem in upstate New York than in New York City. In the Mid West, where meth use is already rampant, most of the drugs come from socalled "momand pop" labs. The overwhelming majority of the meth sold in New York City comes from superlabs in Mexico and California. Law enforcement experts say this may soon change, and the DEA and state police have seen a major surge of smaller labs near Binghamton and other upstate cities.

" Between 19891998, there were less than five methamphetamine labs reported in New York State. " In 1999, only 2 methamphetamine labs were reported in New York State. " In 2000, 8 methamphetamine labs were reported in New York State. " In 2001, 19 methamphetamine labs were reported in New York State. " In 2002, 45 methamphetamine labs were reported in New York State. " In 2003,73 methamphetamine labs were reported in New York State.

These labs were located across the state including in Bronx, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties.

The DEA is currently investigating at least ten separate organizations that are alleged to be distributing meth in New York City, and in February the DEA, Internal Revenue Service and the NYPD concluded the first phase of "Operation Chelsea Connection" with the indictment of six defendants for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. More than six pounds of meth was seized in connection with that case, in which the defendants are alleged to have distributed the drug in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. The New York Field Office of the DEA has also obtained evidence and received intelligence indicating that methamphetamine is becoming more widely available in New York's club scene. Narcotics detectives in Nassau and Suffolk counties have also said they are bracing for a surge in meth.

Meth is also linked to other forms of crime. In 2003, law enforcement officials seized 3,275 firearms nationwide in connection with clandestine methamphetamine laboratories. According to the DEA, in San Diego County, approximately 30% of the males arrested for violent crime had meth in their system at the time of arrest.

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:

EQUALIZE CRYSTAL METH AND CRACK PENALTIES. Schumer announced today that he will introduce legislation to 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 current federal law, penalties for drug dealers who sell crack are tough regardless of the purity of the drug, but penalties vary for meth depending on its purity. Dealers who happen to sell meth that is less pure face lower penalties. This endangers local law enforcement who must make more undercover buys before they can make an arrest. It also helps dealers get away with lighter sentences. Under the Schumer bill, all meth and crack cocaine dealers will be treated the same regardless of the purity of the drug. 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.

CLOSE LOOPHOLE ON KEY METH INGREDIENT. Schumer also announced he will cosponsor the bipartisan 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.

SEND NEW YORK MILLIONS IN FEDERAL FUNDS FOR TREATMENT AND PREVENTION. On Thursday, New York City Health Department officials told the City Council that they are mounting a campaign funds for meth education, prevention, and treatment this year funded with $300,000 in federal funds. The City has not secured funding yet for similar programs next year. Schumer today said he is working with the City Department of Health and officials from Nassau and Suffolk Counties to identify federal resources that can be tapped for New York programs, and is asking the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at the US Department of Health and Human Services to put new emphasis on localities where meth is a growing but not yet epidemic problem when it makes funding decisions. Overall, the Schumer plan helps federal prosecutors and law enforcement by toughening penalties so prosecutors can immediately get tough with smaller to midlevel drug dealers who may want to get in on the meth boom and start selling that drug instead of crack or heroin or marijuana. It treats meth like crack to send the message on the street that the growth and sale of this drug will not be tolerated. And it helps law enforcement investigations by forcing lower level dealers to cooperate with prosecutors earlier, and plead to lower offenses, before they sell the threshold amount to trigger a tough new sentence.

"Crystal meth is becoming the new crack, and we need tough new penalties that treat it like crack. 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.

In addition to DEA Special Agent in Charge Anthony P. Placido, Schumer was joined today by Brian Madden, Executive Vice President of the Daytop Village Treatment Center and "Mark," a recovering meth addict.

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