Pubdate: Tue, 09 Sep 2003
Source: News & Observer (NC)
Copyright: 2003 The News and Observer Publishing Company
Author: Mett Ausley Jr., M.D.


The clandestine methamphetamine labs described in your Sept. 2 article
"Rural country is meth central" unquestionably jeopardize public safety.
Deaths and injuries from fires and noxious vapors are well-documented,
environmental contamination is a concern and the impact upon children is
real. This hardly has escaped public notice as homemade methamphetamine has
gradually migrated toward our locale. Considering that neighboring Tennessee
has been heavily afflicted, any assertion that local officials have been
blindsided is implausible; in fact area law enforcement agencies have long
anticipated its arrival.

Accordingly, Watauga County District Attorney Jerry Wilson's "desperate"
action of charging backwoods meth cooks as terrorists can't be dismissed as
the overreaction of a bumpkin more attuned to trying chicken thieves. This
ridiculous publicity stunt is exactly the opportunistic grandstanding it

And as state Attorney General Roy Cooper tsk-tsks at such theatrics as
"frustration" over lenient penalties, I take it that the legislature has
repeatedly ignored his quiet warnings, necessitating such undignified
appeals to fear.

It appears the tidal wave of hype over meth labs may simply have grown too
high for even the most hot-dog officials to surf it for quick political
gain. Disaster is not imminent, leaving ample time for sober deliberation.
Asking simple questions and examining other states' experiences seems
superior to inciting panic. For example, if longer sentences are proposed,
how cost-effective have Oklahoma's harsh penalties been in curbing this

Of course, those inclined to clownish antics and exploitation remain free to
entertain us as they wish.

Mett Ausley Jr., M.D.

Lake Waccamaw
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