Press Release  | 11/17/2005

After Much Debate, Congress Poised to Pass Meth Bill as PATRIOT Act

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National Drug Policy Reform Group Claims Partial Victory as Final Bill Removes Harsh Mandatory Minimums and Contains Drug Treatment Component
Concerns Remain over Provisions Punishing Meth-Addicted Mothers and Requiring Citizens to Sign Government Logs to Buy Cold Medicine

After much negotiation and contentious debate in three Congressional committees, Congress has finalized legislation dealing with methamphetamine. The final bill, known as the "Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act", was included in the PATRIOT Act which will likely pass Congress this weekend. Critics of the nation's war on drugs say the bill is a significant improvement over what was originally introduced.

"This bill was originally full of draconian mandatory minimums and contained no money for drug treatment," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "But after an exhausting fight, the mandatory minimums were killed and money for drug treatment was added."

Critics still worry about two provisions stuck into the meth bill this week. One would enact a new penalty of up to 20-years for selling or making methamphetamine in a home where a minor resides (even if the minor is not there at the time). If enacted, the provision could result in thousands of meth-addicted mothers receiving long prison sentences instead of drug treatment. Their children would be put into foster care at taxpayer expense. The Drug Policy Alliance believes that policymakers should strive to keep families together, not tear them apart.

The other provision would require law-abiding Americans to show ID and sign a government log to buy cold medicine. While many drug policy reformers support regulating the sale of cold medicine, including limiting the amount people can buy and requiring cold medicine to be stored behind the counter, they worry about the privacy implications of requiring people to show ID and give their name and address to buy Nyquil, Theraflu, Sudafed and dozens of other cold medicines.

"Putting mothers with substance abuse problems in federal prison for 20 years and requiring law-abiding citizens to give out personal information to buy cold medicine won't reduce the availability of methamphetamine or the harms associated with methamphetamine abuse," Piper added.

Tony Newman or Bill Piper

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