WASHINGTON – As the U.S. House of Representatives reconvened to begin the second session of the 111th Congress, U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon vowed to continue his fight against the use and production of methamphetamine across Tennessee and the United States.
“Tennessee is one of the top three states in reported meth lab incidents,” said Gordon, a member of the Congressional Caucus to Fight and Control Methamphetamine. “Meth’s highly addictive nature and availability in our communities is alarming, but the rise in meth related busts shows effectiveness in new laws and improvements in law enforcement effectiveness.”
According to the Tennessee Meth Task Force, the state exceeded 1,300 meth lab incidents in 2009. Gordon said the meth epidemic in Tennessee is why he introduced the Combat Methamphetamine Enhancement Act, H.R. 2923, last year.
The bipartisan bill closes a loophole in a 2006 law, placing stronger enforcement on retailers of products that contain ingredients used to make meth. For example, many common medications contain pseudoephedrine or ephedrine, which are used to produce meth. Gordon’s bill implements new safeguards that would require retailers to self-certify with the Drug Enforcement Administration, require distributors of these products to sell only to retailers who are registered with the DEA, and establish civil fines for those who fail to comply with the regulations.
Gordon is optimistic Congress will take action on H.R. 2923 this year. The bill currently has 15 bipartisan cosponsors and the support of numerous organizations, including the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, National Fraternal Order of Police, Healthcare Distribution Management Association, and Consumer Healthcare Products Association.
“There is no simple solution to solving the meth epidemic,” said Gordon. “Placing tougher restrictions on retailers and distributors of these products will bring down the use rates and availability of meth in our communities. But communities must still deal with the problems that arise after a meth lab bust. Local officials need the right tools to detect meth labs earlier, and once seized, the proper clean up protocols to make former labs livable again.”
In 2007, Gordon authored the Methamphetamine Remediation Research Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush. The law directed the Environmental Protection Agency to develop clean-up standards for former meth labs to help eradicate the toxic residue left behind when meth is cooked. The bill also directed the National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop meth detection equipment for field use.
Though meth lab incidents are again on the rise, experts believe it is not a result of increased meth activity but rather the efficiency of these new tools and law enforcement programs.
In accordance with the 2007 law, the EPA released a set of guidelines in October to remediate former meth labs. The guidelines set minimum requirements for contractors hired to clean labs, explain the types of protective equipment needed for people who clean the labs, and outline methods for disposing unwanted material.
“Meth is a plague in our state, but we’re not the only ones facing this problem. Other states in the Southeast and the Midwest are also hard hit by this problem,” said Gordon. “By establishing a comprehensive approach including local, state, and federal cooperation, we can and will defeat meth.”