The New Meth

When it comes to preventing -- and treating -- crystal meth addiction, Arizona may be getting a clue

The reason? A little thing called the Patriot Act.

That act, the bane of civil libertarians everywhere, includes a set of provisions regulating pseudoephedrine.

Like Phoenix's laws, it sets the purchase limit at nine grams per customer, per month.

It requires medications with that ingredient to be kept behind the counter.

And, it requires that customers sign a logbook.

Oddly enough, the Arizona House of Representatives voted 43-14 to approve statewide pseudoephedrine restrictions, with almost identical components, on the very day that President George W. Bush signed the Patriot Act into law. (The state Senate has since assigned the bill to several committees.)

Fortunately, the Legislature has chosen to fast-track a different meth bill -- one with a much broader goal.

The bill doesn't just focus on cutting off the supply. It aims to reduce demand.

As of press time, the bill calls for $17 million of funding designed to stop meth abuse. That's $6 million for treatment services, $6 million to help the Department of Public Safety stop the flow of meth from Mexico, and $5 million for a Department of Health Services campaign targeted at kids, modeled on the department's wildly successful anti-smoking initiative.

The bill, sponsored by State Representative Mark Anderson, R-Mesa, passed the House with a 41-8 margin earlier this month, just two weeks after Anderson proposed it. The Senate could approve it as early as this week, sending it in near-record time to Governor Janet Napolitano, who is said to be a supporter.

At least one senator, Anderson says, has questioned why the bill can't wait for the next budget.

"We explained that it was high priority, and it's being fast-tracked," he says. "The scope of the problem has reached the point where, without exception, everybody is aware of how serious it is -- and that we need to do something significant."

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