Legislators crack down on meth

David Arkin

Methamphetamine has become such a problem in New Mexico that lawmakers may consider a bill focused on fighting the war against the highly addictive drug.
Local law enforcement officials are applauding the bill, which will make an appearance soon before the House Judiciary Committee.
The bill would allow prosecutors to charge people with child abuse if children are in a place where meth is manufactured. Also, people could be charged with child abuse if children are in a vehicle or building where materials used in making meth are stored.
Another part of the legislation would give the Board of Pharmacy the right to restrict the possession of substances used to make meth.
Curry County Sheriff Roger Hatcher was ecstatic to learn that the legislation was introduced, calling the meth problem “a 15 on a scale of 1-10.”
“I definitely support this,” he said. “We are seeing a widespread use of it in all classes and ethnicities. It’s extremely harmful to the wellbeing of anyone who takes it. It’s made out of stuff used to clean your sinks and make your car run. It’s very dangerous.”
Clovis Police Chief Bill Carey agreed that meth has reached a serious level of danger in not just Clovis, but across the country.
“We do have a meth problem,” he said. “It’s amazing that people put this in their system.”
However, Portales Police Department Capt. Lonnie Berry said his department doesn’t have many situations that would fall under the proposed legislation’s criteria.
But he did say he thought it was a good idea and could help in the fight on meth.
“It’s more important than anything to keep our kids safe,” he said. “The legislation could be just another tool we can use to try to keep kids safe.”
Police in eastern New Mexico all say they have seen a surge in the use of meth.
“Meth was around years ago, but it wasn’t real prominent in this area,” Carey said. “We used to see a lot of marijuana and cocaine, but then during the last three years it has gained in prominence.”
The fact that children who live with those who produce meth are in danger of becoming ill is one reason the legislation is so important, supporters say.
“What happens is that the kids who are living in this kind of environment end up with meth in their systems,” Carey said. “Kids end up with all sorts of diseases from it.”
The drug is so addictive because of how long the high lasts, Hatcher said.
“The people who I have talked to say that if you smoke it at one time you can stay high for six to eight hours,” he said. “I don’t think people really consider what they are putting in their system.”
Hatcher said law enforcement is finding more and more young people using the drug.
“I think we have to sit back and re-evaluate not only specific penalties to meth, but take a look across our criminal justice system in general. We are having more people commit more crimes than ever before. The things we have been doing are just not working. We just slap people on the wrist and try to get more serious as we go along and that’s not working.”
Hatcher wants to see strict penalties for meth users.
“Regardless if someone is in the business of manufacturing or distributing any kind of narcotic drug, we need to give them a mandatory prison sentence of 10 years,” he said. “We need to make them understand that they are destroying our country and our young people.”
Some lawmakers in eastern New Mexico seem supportive of doing anything they can to help fight meth use.
“I have been to two seminars and saw what it (meth) does to the brain,” said Rep. Earlene Roberts, R-Lovington. “You just can’t imagine.”
Roberts, whose district includes Roosevelt County, said the issue needs to be addressed.
“We need to be getting awareness up as to how destructive it really is,” she said.
Rep. Anna Crook, R-Clovis, agreed.     
“This is not just a problem facing our local area, but rather our entire nation,” she said. “We need to do everything we can to make sure that our children are not exposed to it.”
Crook said she was supportive of the legislation, but emphasized the need to concentrate on rehabilitation.
“All we are doing is clogging our prisons and jails with drug offenders,” she said. “It’s a revolving door. I want more rehab.”