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The Dansville Online
  • Sen. Tom O'Mara: Meth, again

  • So meth-related story after meth-related story simply keep fueling the perception that meth is on the rise across the region. The officers of the Southern Tier Methamphetamine Task Force continue to do outstanding work to protect our communities. But the rest of us can’t sit back and allow our region or anywhere else...
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  • A little over a month ago in this column, I posed the question, “Is meth making a comeback?”
    I posed the question because of the feeling among many area residents that there’s been an alarming and a troubling increase across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions over the past year in the incidents of addiction, violence and tragedy that are the by-products of rampant methamphetamine production and use. Since then, we’ve continued to read and hear about additional meth-related crimes locally. Just last week, for example, two area men were charged for having made meth in an out-of-town homeowner’s garage in Lindley, Steuben County.
    So meth-related story after meth-related story simply keep fueling the perception that meth is on the rise across the region. The officers of the Southern Tier Methamphetamine Task Force continue to do outstanding work to protect our communities. But the rest of us can’t sit back and allow our region or anywhere else in New York state to serve as a safe harbor for meth labs, meth addicts or meth pushers. The risks are too great and the consequences too overwhelming for the safety of our neighborhoods, our police officers and our first responders, to say nothing of local systems of health care, criminal justice and social services.
    Heightened public awareness and stronger education are critical. But I’m also hopeful that tougher laws could be helpful in the prosecution and punishment of meth criminals while, at the same, sparking the broader public discussion that needs to be ongoing. So I’ve recently introduced legislation in the Senate to significantly increase the criminal penalties for possessing, selling or manufacturing the dangerous and highly addictive drug. The toll that meth takes is remarkable. According to a 2009 report from the Rand Corporation, the economic cost of meth use in the United States reached nearly $24 billion in 2005 and could go as high as $48 billion. Meth manufacturing involves the use of highly explosive, flammable and toxic chemicals, and meth labs pose a significant public health and safety threat, especially if they’re located in residential neighborhoods. To say nothing of the personal toll that the drug inflicts on its users.
    I’m proposing to:
    • Increase the criminal penalties for the possession of methamphetamine manufacturing material and the unlawful manufacture of methamphetamine, implementing a series of increasingly severe felony offenses.
    • In a similar fashion, increase the criminal penalties for the possession and/or sale of methamphetamine to bring the penalties more in line with the penalties for possessing and/or selling cocaine and heroin.
    These actions would make it easier to prosecute meth crimes and impose tougher criminal penalties to punish meth convicts. We also believe tougher anti-meth laws will act as a stronger deterrent among our young people at risk of falling prey to this cycle of addiction and tragedy.
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    It wasn’t that long ago, in 2006, when the legislature and then-Governor George Pataki enacted New York’s first comprehensive anti-meth law. That followed the release of a sensational report from the State Commission on Investigation warning that methamphetamine would become an increasingly dire public health and safety threat unless New York adopted new and tougher laws to combat the drug’s proliferation. That 2005 report, “Methamphetamine Use & Manufacture” (which, by the way, can still be found online at nyslec.org/pdfs/ 111804_finalreport.pdf), cautioned that the drug’s rapidly growing use and manufacture posed “an urgent threat to public health and safety and without new and tougher laws to combat the threat, New York could become a haven for methamphetamine users and manufacturers.”
    It singled out the Southern Tier as a hotbed of criminal meth activity.
    Less than a decade later, it looks like we need to heed that warning once again. And we need to ensure that our laws are keeping pace with the goal of putting meth manufacturers and sellers out of business here at home, and across New York state.