Edwards pledges war on meth labs

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Vice Presidential hopeful Sen. John Edwards Monday said more funding for police and a tighter rein on methamphetamine precursors are an essential part of cutting meth production and use, especially in rural areas like northwest Iowa.

Edwards made his remarks during a noon telephone conference with selected newspapers from around the country, including the Pilot-Tribune.

"The meth epidemic has become a cancer," Edwards said, citing a 79 percent increase in meth labs since President Bush took office. During that same period, Edwards said there was a four-fold increase Iowa meth use. Edwards noted there had been a 10-fold increase in meth use in his own state of North Carolina since Bush became President.

Edwards attributed a 63 percent funding cut to fight meth hot spots under Bush as the reason for the increases. If he and John Kerry were elected, Edwards claimed they would push for stricter punishments for violators and make it more difficult to buy cold medicine and other precursors in bulk. They would also beef up police programs, expand mandatory treatment programs, and help communities clean up meth labs.

"We're going to make sure that local communities don't have to deal with these burdens alone," Edwards said.

In a question-and-answer session that followed, Edwards said he and John Kerry would work directly with retailers to curtail cold medicine purchases to two units.

Edwards did not blame lack of police involvement in reducing meth production and use. "State and local cops are working very hard on this," Edwards said. "They're doing so without the help of the federal government."

Edwards said loss of jobs and a downturn in the rural economy are reasons for increased meth use.

"A lot of young people have just lost hope," Edwards said. "That loss of hope has led to meth use."

Edwards said the plan will cost about $30 million a year.

The funding would come from "reductions in wasteful government spending."

Edwards said he and Kerry have proposed full funding for hiring and drug prevention efforts in the COPS program. Another proposal is for locks on ammonia tanks. Edwards said he and Kerry also plan on hiring 5,000 new prosecutors to fill in the gaps in counties where there are no full-time prosecutors.

Edwards said he and Kerry would also address meth coming across the Mexican border.

"Senators Kerry and Edwards are going to reinvigorate the DEA's efforts," Edwards said.

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