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WMDs are here in Nevada County

We can stop searching. The Weapons of Mass Destruction have been discovered in a motel room bathtub up near Lyman Gilmore School.

And there’s more where that came from.

That’s right, my fellow Americans, the so-called WMDs we’ve been searching for have been right under our noses the entire time.



Do we have your attention yet? How many more need to be beaten, robbed, or killed before we finally get sick and tired of it? How many more must be consumed by its potency and driven to the depths of desperation before we get rid of it once and for all?

It’s time to come clean, folks. “My name is Nevada County and I am a drug addict.”




Want proof? Check the recent news pages. Habitual drug user steals truck and crashes it into a UPS truck, killing its driver, a family man who was getting ready to head home to a wife and two daughters. Habitual drug users break into Alta Sierra home and club its occupant, stealing a jar of coins before leading cops on a dangerous chase through our quaint and historic neighborhoods. Habitual drug users rob us blind, clogging our courtrooms and jails in a revolving door that shifts from incarceration to treatment to freedom, to drug use, to incarceration, to treatment and so on and so forth, depending upon the latest public-policy polls.

At the root of our problem is the same cancer that is afflicting rural communities across the land. It’s called methamphetamine, or speed, or uppers, or crystal meth, chalk, ice, or crank. It’s swallowed, snorted and injected. And it’s the ultimate weight-loss program. Meth users don’t eat a lot. They don’t sleep a lot, either. The drug makes them feel like running around stealing cars, chain saws, jars of coins, or whatever else it takes to buy another dose.

If your eyes are open wide enough, you can see the trail. It’s sold in small plastic or paper packets. The tools include razor blades, mirrors, straws, and rolled dollar bills. Hardcore users keep syringes, spoons, surgical tubing, bandannas, or belts to constrict the vein.

Why is it so popular? For starters, methamphetamine is a lot cheaper than cocaine and you can cook it in your bathtub, which is where they were cooking it up down the street from Lyman Gilmore School a couple of weeks ago. All you need is a little anhydrous ammonia and red phosphorous. One guy serving a 12-year sentence in Pennsylvania said he got most of his cooking materials from Wal-Mart.

The problem is that most of the guys mixing the chemicals are crank heads, not chemists. Toxic gas leaks, chemical fires and explosions often occur during the cooking process, which is why the cooks generally enjoy country living.

And you may want to think twice before packing up the kids and heading to Iowa, or Wyoming, or South Dakota. They cook meth there, too.

There’s a sleepy little town of Lovell, Wyo., for example, where 70 of the town’s 2,264 residents have been convicted of buying or selling methamphetamines. Burglaries have mushroomed. Children have been taken from homes because mom and dad are so strung out they forgot to feed them.

They’re stealing tractors in America’s Heartland to pay for methamphetamines, for goodness sake.

“Meth is the single most serious law enforcement issue that North Dakota is facing, and has ever faced,” the state’s attorney general said recently. It’s the same story in places such as White Lake, Mich., and Cedartown, Ga., and Elk Valley, Tenn., and Dodge City, Kan.

Sounds familiar, eh? Any Nevada County local law enforcement officer or court official will tell you the same thing.

What to do? For starters I think we need to call a time out. Find out why what we thought would work isn’t working. The suspect in the tragic death of a UPS driver and suspects in the recent home invasion beating in Alta Sierra have drug use histories littered with jail and treatment and jail and more treatment. Neither jail nor treatment seemed to have had much success.

On his way to prison last week, local drug addict Mike Ford penned an Other Voices column for this newspaper warning that it will take more than committees to solve this problem. Perhaps he’s seen our affordable housing plans.

A good place to start is at the source. We need to have a real Zero Tolerance with respect to the meth labs. Cook it and go to jail for a long, long time. Cook it near our children and go to jail until your teeth fall out. And not jail as in, “Do 60 days on a five-year sentence and then visit a counselor on Fridays.” I mean jail as in, “Here’s a blanket, there’s your bed and this is Bubba, your roommate for the next five to 10 years.” It sounds as if our state prison correctional officers have too much time on their hands lately and can use some company.

Treatment is for the addicts. At least those addicts who really and truly want to get clean and are willing to grab a life preserver. Maybe we throw it twice, and if they throw it back a second time we let them drown. We can only help those who are willing to be helped. Mr. Ford rightfully points out that breaking a methamphetamine habit is much more difficult than starting one.

But he also points out that he is a human being whose own human frailty led to his downfall. “The fact of the matter is that asked an honest question, nine out of 10 of these “tweakers” would give everything they have to never touch this God-awful drug again,” he wrote. “Every day to them begins with, ‘I’ll quit in the morning (a morning that never comes)…”

County officials are at least making noises to look for solutions. The reality, however, comes down to resources. We don’t have enough money to fight this war on all fronts, so we need to go for the jugular. Let the cops and courts at least agree to send a message to all those meth lab chefs out there that their days are numbered. That we will not allow them to cook that poison in our neighborhoods any longer. That if we catch them cooking it we will send them to prison for a long, long time. And if our state laws don’t permit us to do that, we need to take our fight to Sacramento.

It’s time to get rid of these Weapons of Mass Destruction once and for all.

Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union. His column appears each Tuesday.


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