The Need to Halt Methamphetamine Production in New York

February 1, 2005

Last week, my colleagues and I unveiled a comprehensive plan to halt the scourge of methamphetamine (meth) production that has increased dramatically in New York state over the past five years.

My proposal would make it a crime to possess the makings of a clandestine meth lab, increase penalties for theft of the liquid fertilizer used in a popular meth "recipe," make it harder for meth "cooks" to obtain the ingredients for the drug, protect children living in or near meth labs, and create new regulations for remediation of dangerous meth production sites.

The fact that meth is inexpensive and relatively easy to produce at home or even in the trunk of a car, and the fact that it is extremely addictive, are reasons enough that we need to do everything possible to stop meth production immediately. Meth – also known as speed, crank, crystal, ice – is manufactured with common household items, including cold medicine, lithium batteries, drain cleaner and starter fluid. Methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant that is fast becoming the crack cocaine of the 21st century with a "high" that can last 24 hours or longer. The drug can be injected, smoked, snorted or ingested orally. The use of meth can cause serious physical problems, even death.

There have also been recent incidents in southern Cayuga County and the Southern Tier involving the theft of anhydrous ammonia from our local farmers. This is a very volatile, dangerous substance, though it’s used as a fertilizer in the production of corn and other grain crops. Illegal drug manufacturers have traveled to our region to steal anhydrous ammonia. Anhydrous ammonia is an integral ingredient in the "Nazi" or "Birch" reduction method of meth production, which doesn’t require heat or extensive knowledge of chemistry. Anhydrous ammonia, which must stay under pressure to remain liquid, can be deadly if handled incorrectly.

Meth has thrived in California for years, and now meth production and use have steadily moved east, wreaking havoc along the way. Prior to 2000, only a few meth labs could be found in New York state. Since then, police seizures have increased from three labs in 1999 to 73 in 2003. The proposed action is timely.