Police issue warning on meth
By Alan J. Keays
Staff Writer | August 28,2005
If methamphetamines gain a foothold in Vermont, the drug could create an epidemic that far outpaces the impact that heroin has had on the state.
That was the message from Vermont State Police Detective Trooper Michael Smith at a recent forum held in Rutland to raise awareness about the dangers of methamphetamines.
"If we end up with a meth problem in Vermont, it will overrun our heroin problem," said Smith, a member of the State Police criminal intelligence unit. "We don't currently have a meth problem. We want to get ahead of it. We want to be truly proactive."
Smith spoke at the forum called a "Methamphetamine Information Session for Community Professionals." More than 60 people, including prison guards, prosecutors, judges and drug treatment providers, attended the two-hour session held last week at the Rutland Intermediate School.
Similar information sessions are taking place across the state.
The forums follow the "Vermont Methamphetamine Policy Summit" held in February in Montpelier which were sponsored by the state departments of Health and Public Safety and the state Criminal Justice Training Council.
"That was the first phase, to bring policymakers and department heads up to speed on methamphetamines," Smith said. "Now we're in the second phase, where we're talking to community professionals and educating them."
A third phase is also planned, aimed at state residents.
"We're going to start hitting the communities," Smith said. "We're looking at public service announcements and other ways to get the word out. There are other states out there and we're looking to see what they have done. We're trying not to reinvent the wheel."
Smith said he isn't sure why the drug — which has swept across the West and Midwest, leaving a swath of addicts and crimes in its wake — has not yet reached Vermont.
"A lot of people ask that," Smith said. "It's just been this progression from the Midwest."
Police in June 2004 broke up what they believed to be the first methamphetamine lab in Vermont, arresting two men from Arkansas who were charged with setting up shop in Shrewsbury. Police said they were acting on a tip when they raided the home.
Police said they found many pseudoephedrine pills, commonly used for cooking methamphetamines.
Police said their search of a garage recovered gallons of acetone, assorted glassware and ephedrine pills, all common items in a meth lab.
Police also seized about 2 grams of methamphetamine. Federal charges are pending against the two men.
Police have raided homes in Rutland County before in search of methamphetamine. A West Rutland man was arrested in 1990 after police raided his home and found what they believed to be evidence he had been manufacturing the drug.
More recently, a Canadian man was arrested in the Northeast Kingdom in February after police seized from his truck nearly 700 pounds of ephedrine, a chemical used to make methamphetamine. Federal charges against that man are also pending.
According to court records, one pound of ephedrine can be used to manufacture between 0.6 and 0.9 pounds of methamphetamine, meaning that the ephedrine seized from the vehicle could have been used to produce between 420 to 630 pounds of meth.
Police added that meth sells for about $2,400 per ounce in New England.
Cynthia Taylor-Patch, a training and curriculum development coordinator at the Vermont Police Academy in Pittsford, also spoke this week at the forum.
"A lot of states across the nation have been devastated by meth," Taylor-Patch said. "We don't want that to happen here."
Taylor Patch said methamphetamines are a highly addictive stimulant, which can be smoked, snorted or injected. Use of the drug can result in brain damage or death, she said.
"People who take the drug are extremely wired," Taylor-Patch said.
Smith added, "Meth users are very paranoid. That's not meant to sound derogatory. It's the truth."
Methamphetamine can also lead to severe weight loss, heart and liver problems, sudden mood changes and violent tendencies, Taylor-Patch said.
The drug has hit rural areas in the country particularly hard, Taylor-Patch said. He said it can be made in small, makeshift laboratories from ingredients that can be purchased legally.
However, some of the ingredients are toxic and can turn those makeshift laboratories into hazardous waste sites requiring trained professionals to clean them up.
Smith said many states have enacted laws to limit the sale of "precursor" over-the-counter chemicals used to manufacture methamphetamines, including pseudoephedrine, commonly found in cold medicines.
The detective said he hopes the Legislature will take action on similar legislation next session.
"We don't want to scare people," Taylor-Patch said. "It's very early on in the process. What we're trying to do is educate."
Contact Alan J. Keays at email@example.com.
Each of the following locations will host two presentations, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. and from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
u Sept. 7: American Legion in Barre.
u Sept. 21: American Legion in Bennington.
u Oct. 5: Veterans of Foreign Wars Post in Middlebury.
u Oct. 26: Veterans of Foreign Wars Post in Morrisville.
u Nov. 9: Elks Club in Springfield.
u Nov. 16: Gateway Center in Newport.