Police agencies in states that produce much of the nation's methamphetamine have made a sudden retreat in the war on meth, at times virtually abandoning pursuit of the drug because they can no longer afford to clean up the toxic waste generated by labs, reports the Associated Press. Despite evidence that the meth trade is flourishing, many agencies have called off tactics that have been used for years to confront drug makers: sending agents undercover, conducting door-to-door investigations, staking out pharmacies to catch people buying large amounts of cold medicine.
The steep cutbacks began after the federal government in February canceled a program that provided millions of dollars to help local agencies dispose of seized labs. Since then, the number of labs seized has plummeted by a third in some key meth-producing states and two-thirds in at least one, Alabama. The trend is almost certain to continue unless more states find a way to replace the federal money or to conduct cheaper cleanups, which typically cost $2,500 to $5,000 per lab.