Governor Vilsack says he’ll sign the “meth” bill early this week. The new law will put many cold and allergy medications behind the counter, restrict the amount you can buy and force you to show an I-D to buy the stuff. It’s an effort to stop easy access to pseudoephedrine — the main ingredient in meth. But only 20 percent of the meth consumed in Iowa is cooked here. The rest comes from out-of-state. As lawmakers celebrate their new crackdown against meth makers, most recognize this new law is not going to shut down the meth trade. Senator Joel Bolkcom (BOWL’-kum), a democrat from Iowa City, says the latest Iowa prison statistics show the magnitude of the meth problem. Last year, about a third of the people who entered Iowa prisons were convicted of a drug offense — and 62 percent of the drug offenses were related to meth. Bolkcom says meth-users committed other crimes, too, like robbery to bankroll their habit — making meth a major factor in last year’s prison admissions. Half of all the women who entered an Iowa prison last year said they’d used meth and 40 percent of all the men who were sent to prison in 2004 had used meth. Bolkcom says the good news is when folks who’re hooked on meth get into a treatment program, they are able to kick the habit. The success rate? After six months on their own, about 65 percent of people who’ve gone through a treatment program are still clean.Bolkcom says the state should invest more in drug treatment programs and give more of the folks who’re arrested a chance to go into treatment rather than prison. Senator Bob Brunkhorst, a republican from Waverly, says every year the legislature has and will pass a bill to deal with the meth epidemic. He urged his colleagues in the legislature to sponsor a visit from a traveling state display that illustrates the dangers of the drug. Brunkhorst says legislators, in their home communities, can use their own “bully pulpit” to start educating Iowans about the drug. Governor Vilsack has tried to tie his proposal for more state spending on preschool programs to the fight against meth. “I would suggest that a committment to early childhood (education spending) would give our youngsters the courage and the character to say ‘No,'” Vilsack says. Vilsack says helping kids be a success in school is first in the war on meth. He says the second line of defense is tough laws. The third prong is to make sure those who make the mistake of taking the drug can get substance abuse treatment and assistance to kick the habit.
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