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Missouri Law Enforcers attend Meth Summit

October 06, 1997
By: JOE STANGE
State Capital Bureau
JEFFERSON CITY - Law enforcement leaders from around the state converged on the state capital Monday to tackle what the Highway Patrol has dubbed the "number one" crime problem in the state.

The Methamphetamine Summit was attended by notables from around the state including Gov. Mel Carnahan, Attorney General Jay Nixon, Highway Patrol Superintendent Weldon Wilhoit, two U.S. attorneys, a DEA special agent, and at least two of the state's top county prosecutors.

In recent years, Missouri has become a national leader in meth production. The rare assemblage of law enforcers from local, state, and federal levels met to share information on the most effective ways to address the issue, according to Carnahan.

In his opening remarks, the governor said the drug "is a major problem in the state because of its attractiveness to the user." He said the low cost, high addictiveness, and variety of ways the drug can be taken were all reasons for the drug's popularity among users.

"Meth is also popular with the drug traffickers because it's so easy to produce," Carnahan said. "The recipe seems to be easily passed from person to person. I understand it can even be found on the Internet."

Attorney General Jay Nixon said the state will have to try different methods, such as "fast-track" drug courts, to be more successful in the fight against the meth problem.

"We have been aggressive but we must do more," he said.

The generosity of Missourians was one reason meth production seems to be spreading so rapidly, Jackson County Prosecutor Claire McCaskill said.

"These are really like Amway distributorships," she said. "Our cookers are more likely to teach others ... to cook for a relatively small amount of money."

Ed Dowd, the U.S. Attorney for Missouri's Eastern District, said methamphetamines have an addiction rate of 80 percent, comparable with that of crack cocaine.

"This is not like drinking a fifth of Scotch or even smoking marijuana," he said.

Dowd said law enforcement officials "have an absolute duty to educate young people ... even middle-aged people" about the problem.

"We have a tremendous job to do in education and we need to do it right now," he said.

Western District U.S. Attorney Steve Hill said education also needs to be done from parent to child.

According to Hill, there are two significant trends developing among meth users. First, the drug is being used more frequently than before by other groups besides white males. Secondly, meth is being used more frequently by younger people.

"It's made the jump to the younger crowd," Hill said.

Hill said it is important for parents to explain the dangers of the drug.

"The first thing Mom and Dad can do is talk to their kids about methamphetamines."