Crow Wing County Commissioner Terry Sluss agrees with many of Gov. Pawlenty's ideas on combating methamphetamine.
In fact, many of the ideas supported by Pawlenty were included in Sluss' methamphetamine prevention plan for Crow Wing County.
"It appears that the governor has listened to the leadership role that Crow Wing County has taken when it comes to the methamphetamine problem," Sluss said, noting the governor's plan adopts portions of four of the six-point plan adopted Aug. 24 by Crow Wing County. "I would like to see the Brainerd lakes community continue to take the statewide lead in working on this issue and I would welcome a partnership with the state in working toward a reasonable, long-term solution rather than temporary Band-Aids."
Sluss, county meth prevention coordinator, said Pawlenty relies on schools and community groups to develop an educational program to discuss the dangers of methamphetamine.
"I agree with the governor that education is a significant step toward addressing this and other community problems," Sluss said. "I disagree with the governor only to the point that this educational process should not be placed on the backs of our schools. Public education will be important, but it needs to be an educational process that requires the entire community to address the problem and to determine future direction, neighborhood by neighborhood."
Sluss also is in agreement with the governor on controlling access to products used to manufacture meth. One suggestion is to place precursor drugs behind counters or in controlled pharmacies.
The county board will consider an ordinance at its meeting today that would address methamphetamine precursor chemical sales.
"It would not impact the sale of the drugs to those who can benefit from the appropriate use of them, but would limit the number of drugs shoplifted," Sluss said of the proposed ordinance. "I understand the concern about making it more difficult for store staff to confront a meth user from aggressively attempting to obtain the drugs from the counters, but we already have controlled substance drugs we keep behind counters in pharmacies. If someone demands the drugs, we would likely have 'probable cause' to further investigate the situation."
Sluss said the governor's proposal to add 10 new narcotics agents is a good idea but it's not enough to cover the entire state. He said narcotics agents may help address intrastate distribution of meth. Sluss said Crow Wing County will add one additional officer to the Lakes Area Drug Investigation Division and he has encouraged Baxter to add a full-time officer to the team as well to address local meth problems.
In regard to the governor's plan to increase prison terms for meth manufacturing, Sluss said he's not convinced increased prison terms are a deterrent.
Sluss agrees with Pawlenty's proposal that no buildings or vehicles used as meth labs could be resold until cleanup is completed. The county previously enacted this standard by county ordinance.
The governor proposes $3.5 million over the next two years, assuming $1.75 million per year, to fund his proposal, Sluss said. Crow Wing County conservatively spends $1.8 million per year on the local methamphetamine problem.
"I appreciate the governor and Legislature for whatever assistance they can provide to our local communities as we realize the horrendous impact this drug has on families, local crime, property taxes and the numerous untold victims of this drug," Sluss said.
KATHI NAGORSKI can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5859.
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