President Bush signed a sweeping anti-methamphetamine law yesterday while a top administration official characterized the illicit drug’s rapid spread across the nation as an epidemic. Bush said the “scourge of methamphetamine” is “ruining too many lives across our country.” The new law limits retail distribution and sales of pseudoephedrine, a legal ingredient in popular cold remedies and an essential ingredient in meth. It allows the federal government to track international bulk shipments of pseudoephedrine and its chemical twin, ephedrine.
Drug Enforcement Administration chief Karen Tandy said the law “creates an opportunity to turn the tide of the meth epidemic.” Tandy’s characterization appeared to mark a change in the administration’s position on meth. Still, White House drug czar John Walters distanced himself from Tandy’s characterization of meth as an epidemic. He said: “In some areas, it has grown like an epidemic. In other areas, where it hasn’t penetrated yet, this bill will help keep that from happening.” Some members of Congress have faulted Walters for focusing more attention on drugs such as marijuana that are more widespread than meth but have less-costly consequences for society. The House voted 403-3 yesterday for an amendment requiring Walters’ office to produce a strategy to control precursor chemicals, rein in meth traffic, and treat addicts.