Senator John Thune, Weekly ColumnI'm very concerned about the rapidly spreading methamphetamine abuse problem throughout the country and especially in rural states like South Dakota. Meth abuse poses a dangerous threat to our families and communities throughout the state, and it is a problem that must be addressed.
On a recent visit to Rapid City, I had the chance to meet with law enforcement officials, school administrators, and representatives from the Methamphetamine Awareness and Prevention Project for South Dakota. These community leaders are taking proactive steps to boost awareness about the dangers of meth, and I learned a great deal from them about how important it is to prevent and stop meth abuse before it becomes a criminal problem.
Over the past five years, meth arrests have doubled in South Dakota and tripled in the Black Hills. These statistics are alarming, and they are only expected to grow at a faster rate if nothing is done.
A highly addictive drug, meth is produced cheaply and easily, using common ingredients like rubbing alcohol and drain cleaners, and recipes are only a click away on the Internet. Users can develop psychotic behavior, suicidal thoughts, and brain damage.
As a Member of the Senate Anti-Meth Caucus, I have been working hard in Congress to pass measures to curb meth abuse and encourage aggressive prosecution of meth producers and users.
I have also cosponsored the Combat Meth Act. This bill would authorize funds to provide training to state and local prosecutors and law enforcement agents for investigation and prosecution of meth offenses. It also includes funds for prosecutors and law enforcement agents in rural communities. The bill would also expand public safety and community policing grant programs to hire personnel and purchase equipment to prosecute meth offenses and clean up meth-affected areas.
Last year, these provisions were wrapped into a larger bill to reauthorize the USA Patriot Act. I voted in favor of the Senate version of this legislation, but unfortunately, due to obstructionism and partisanship, the final version was blocked on the Senate floor. The Senate is scheduled to re-address this legislation in the near future. I'm hopeful those Senators who stood in the way of its passage last year will put politics aside and vote in favor of this bill to boost the safety and security of communities across the country.
Working together, through federal and state legislation and community efforts, we can take a strong stand against meth, educate younger generations, and put an end to this growing problem.