Mar 042003
Authors: the Collegian Editorial Board

Colorado has a severe drug problem. It is rapidly spreading from rural areas to more populated zones, and ruining lives in the process. But due in large part to the efforts of our legislators and Gov. Bill Owens, the state is doing its best to kick the habit.

Methamphetamine use is one of the state’s largest and most pressing problems. Next week, Gov. Owens is expected to sign into law HB 1169, a bill that would create harsher penalties for those who have meth labs in the presence of children. It would change the child abuse definition in the Colorado Children’s Code to include child abuse in any case where meth is produced with a child around.

Another bill currently under consideration is HB 1317, which would make it a crime for retailers to sell mass amounts of the chemicals used to make meth. Other states have passed this measure and seen double-digit decreases in the number of meth lab incidents.

Nevada reported a 62 percent decrease in meth labs last year after passing such a law in 2000. Arizona saw a 32 percent decrease last year and around 20 percent decrease the previous year, crediting the new law for the drop.

Frighteningly, Colorado saw a 79 percent increase in meth labs from 2001 to 2002, with 425 lab busts.

The measure to crack down on those who sell the chemicals and equipment used to make meth labs will have its first public hearing at the Capitol this Thursday.

These are the latest strong steps in a series of commendable state actions to combat the growing problem of meth. But there are other methods besides legal punishment that can be considered to stem the tide of meth abuse.

Coloradans should be taught about the dangers of this drug at an early age. Grade schoolers and middle schoolers learn all about the unhealthy effects of cigarettes, marijuana and alcohol. But it’s rare that health classes will spend time educating students about the potential permanent or fatal consequences of shooting a drug that includes antifreeze, acetone and Drano as ingredients.

It is terrifying to think that we could be losing a generation of young people to this awful drug simply because they are uniformed.

Evidently, a demand for the drug exists, and education about its effects and the harm it creates might be a deterrent. More education and more awareness can come from parents, our community and the media.

Baby steps are better than no steps at all, and the state ought to include a comprehensive and proactive education program in its fight against this harmful and disturbing drug.

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