Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Pierce County Methamphetamine Summit
May 30, 2000
Thank you for that introduction, and thank you for the chance to participate in this important gathering. I'm sorry I can't spend the rest of the afternoon with you, but I'll be very interested to hear the outcome of your discussions.
We come together today to shine a spotlight on the fastest-growing, most menacing drug problem we face in this state -- the methamphetamine epidemic. The disastrous effects of this drug are not limited to the addiction, mental illness, violence and destruction of human dignity its users suffer.
Meth labs put children at risk, too. All too often, children are present where meth is being cooked. So they are exposed to toxic chemicals, risk of explosion and fire -- drug deals, violent arguments -- you name it -- a whole different kind of Alice in Wonderland.
The meth epidemic is spreading across our state like a wildfire raging out of control. In 1990? 38 lab sites in our state. Last year? Almost 800. That's a 21-fold increase in less then a decade -- and looking to double in the first few months of this year, and that's just the ones we know about.
We've moved from fewer than 1,000 users in treatment in '94 to almost 5,000 last year, a five-fold increase in five years. And those are just the people who are ready to seek treatment and can get it.
And the most sobering statistic of all. Eleven percent of our high school seniors report they have used meth at least once. And we can't have that. We just can't have that.
More people were treated for methamphetamine use last year in Pierce County than in any other -- 22 percent of the state total. Over 40 percent of our meth lab sites last year in Washington were right here in Tacoma and Pierce County. Pierce County has the dubious distinction of being the "meth capital" of Washington. Pierce County is number three on the West Coast in meth manufacturing -- after two counties in southern California.
One of the reasons Pierce County statistics are so high is because you are doing so much to identify and respond to this epidemic. You're teaching people -- utility workers, apartment and motel managers, community members -- how to recognize and report lab sites. You're working with retailers to restrict sales of pseudoephedrine anhydrous ammonia, lithium batteries, and other common products that contain meth-making ingredients, and to report suspicious purchases.
You're getting arrested users into treatment, through your Drug Court and Tacoma's federal "Breaking the Cycle" grant. You have two of the four meth lab response teams in the entire state, just to serve this county. Your County Council just approved new funding for yet another lab response team -- not an easy decision in the wake of Initiative 695. I'm glad we can help with some National Guard personnel while the new county team gets up and running.
And as you're fighting this epidemic here in Pierce County, we are also working hard to fight it across the whole state. We more than doubled the sentence for manufacturing meth. I signed Senator Rasmussen's bill to add two years to the sentence if a child is present where meth is being cooked. We made it a felony to possess specific chemicals with intent to manufacture methamphetamine.
We expanded the meth lab response team in the State Patrol -- the only law enforcement response team available to 37 of the state's 39 counties. We just got three-quarter million more dollars for new employees, trucks, and equipment for the Department of Ecology to clean up meth labs. And our Clandestine Drug Lab Steering Committee brings law enforcement, public health, and environmental protection agencies together to coordinate resources.
We're all running hard just to keep up with the explosive growth in meth production and use. We will all have to do more in the months and years ahead. But we can't just keep running harder to stay in place. We also have to get ahead of the curve. In addition to taking down meth labs, after they are discovered, we have to work proactively to slow down, and ultimately stop, this deadly industry. And we have to do that across the state, because we know that driving meth labs out of one area only means they crop up somewhere else.
Our proactive strategy must go beyond law enforcement. It must include citizen education, community mobilization, training, coordinated lab response, greater cleanup capability, better access to treatment, and services to children found at meth lab sites. It must be built on active partnerships among local, state and federal agencies, community groups, and concerned citizens.
That's why summits like this one are so important. The professionals who fight meth in each community generally have good working relationships, whether they are in law enforcement, prosecution, emergency response, toxic cleanup, public health, social services, or other fields. We need that kind of collaboration at the policy level, to make the best use of what resources we have, and identify additional resources we can bring to bear on the challenge of methamphetamine.
That's why I welcome and appreciate the effort Senator Gorton and Congressman Dicks, and other members of our delegation, are making to obtain new federal funds for a comprehensive, statewide meth strategy with special emphasis on Pierce County. I support that effort. I will do everything to make that strategy work.
Today's gathering is an important step in that direction. I thank you for being here, and for your commitment to halting the meth epidemic and for helping to make Washington a better place to live, to work, and to raise a family. I share that commitment and look forward to working with you.
Thank you very much.