Our state must have tough anti-meth initiatives in place

This week, I'm happy to report on bold new state and local solutions for one of the state's greatest drug abuse problems: methamphetamine.

In response to the discouraging fact that Arizona leads the nation in meth usage for children ages 12-17, the City of Phoenix followed the lead of other Arizona cities including Tucson, Cottonwood and Camp Verde. Beginning this week, Phoenix is enacting two new laws to track the purchase of pseudoephedrine, the over-the-counter cold medications required for the manufacture of methamphetamine.

I'm glad to see that local governments are serious about taking on meth use. I have also been working on a number of statewide anti-meth initiatives, and I hope that this year, the Arizona Legislature will follow suit.

When I was Arizona's Attorney General, I created the Meth and Kids initiative, teaming up Child Protective Services workers with agents from narcotics task forces. These teams were able to simultaneously identify and destroy meth labs found in homes and remove the children living in those homes from harm's way. This simple, but effective program has proven successful, and I have continued to fund it as governor.

Additionally, the Arizona Department of Public Safety has several narcotics task forces dealing with methamphetamine around the state, including the Counter Narcotics Alliance in Pima and Santa Cruz Counties and the MAGNET task force in Mohave County. These units and others were created for the purpose of handling meth manufacturing, smuggling, and money laundering.

In July of this year, I instructed my staff to work in partnership with Attorney General Goddard's office to create a statewide and community-based anti-meth initiative. We will kick-off the initiative starting with an action conference on meth on Feb. 13 and 14. The conference will focus on an integrated response from law enforcement, prevention and treatment as well as the business community.

The Arizona Parents Commission has stepped up to the challenge of battling meth use and is providing major funding for a multi-year anti-meth initiative as well as the conference. These resources will be used to support anti-meth coalitions in developing and implementing their own local strategic plan for fighting meth where they live. Coalitions have been identified in every county and at least seven tribal organizations and will start receiving pre-conference technical assistance in January.

Heading into the new legislative session, we all must remember that getting tough on drug abuse should not be -- and cannot be -- a partisan issue. State leaders must cooperate to make the necessary laws and remove barriers if we are to have any hope of combating this devastating drug in our communities.

Methamphetamine is a dangerous, illicit drug that when used, often leads to child abuse and neglect as well as serious violence and property crimes. Meth is highly addictive, long lasting, and cheap since it can be made with ingredients purchased legally.

I am grateful to all the individuals, communities, and local governments who are committed to combating meth use in Arizona. I support you, and I urge the Arizona Legislature to act upon the anti-meth proposals I will make in January. Together, we can take on this critical issue and make Arizona a safer, healthier place to live.

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