Crystal meth crackdown - families back tougher sentences

Many Canadians families affected by crystal methamphetamine abuse, are in support of longer jail sentences for dealers and users of the drug.

But unfortunately for many the Ottawa crack down on those who produce and peddle what is sometimes called poor man's cocaine, comes too late.

The drug, which is easily produced in a bathroom, has plunged many able youngsters into methamphetamine-induced psychotic episodes, and often renders those addicted incapable of conducting any meaningful kind of life.

The changes were announced by Justice Minister Irwin Cotler and Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh, at a news conference on August 11th, and mean the maximum penalty for production and distribution has been increased to life imprisonment from 10 years, while the maximum penalty for possession rises from three years to seven.

These changes effectively place crystal meth in the same league as heroin and cocaine.

Mr. Cotler said the intention is to give a clear and unambiguous statement about the gravity of the offence and about the responsibility of the offender, he says that the changes give law enforcement officials 'more teeth to go after dealers'.

Mr. Cotler also said Ottawa is aware of the ravages the drug causes, and added that the tougher sentences will have an impact, and will be 'law in action, not just law on the books'.

Canadian Police are also pleased with the changes, and hope the tougher sentences will deter prospective dealers.

The drug Crystal Meth, which arrived five years ago on the West Coast, has swept across Western Canada, causing concern amongst police, youth workers and health authorities.

The drug apparently first hit the Vancouver's club scene, and is similar to ecstasy, in that it gives users energy and stamina for all-night dance raves.

Crystal Meth is however highly toxic, can cause irreversible brain damage, and can also induce psychosis.

According to youth workers in Vancouver, the drug has caused mayhem at shelters when users who have lost control turn up in a psychotic state.

The population most affected is that of the street kids, mainly because it is cheap.

Apparently one-tenth of a gram, costs $10 and its effect can last up to 12 hours.

In addition to dulling hunger and fatigue, it is also easy to buy and easy to make.

There are recipes which can be accessed on the Internet, and the main ingredients, ephedrine, red phosphorous and iodine, can be easily purchased at a drug or hardware store, and are the same ingredients found in allergy remedies and other medicines.

Already some U.S. states have moved Sudafed and similar medicines behind the counter to combat the problem.

Mr. Dosanjh says that although the federal government is not going that far, he does expect individual provinces to be prompted to do that.

Apparently Crystal meth will be on the agenda of the premiers conference being held at Banff, and Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert, one of the premiers who led the fight for increased penalties involving the drug, says the federal government's moves should act as a strong deterrent.

Calvert also says the problem is not just a western one, as within a matter of three or four years it has become an epidemic, just as it did in the U.S.

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