Policing Methamphetamine: Narcopolitics in Rural America

Policing Methamphetamine: Narcopolitics in Rural America

Policing Methamphetamine: Narcopolitics in Rural America

Policing Methamphetamine: Narcopolitics in Rural America

Excerpt

On March 9, 2006, George W. Bush signed into law the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act. True to its name, the 2006 version of the PATRIOT Act was largely a reauthorization of the initial legislation, with the same general emphasis on combating “terror” in the name of homeland security. There was, however, one major exception. The new act included legislation focused on methamphetamine, the synthetic substance Newsweek had recently dubbed “America’s most dangerous drug” (Jefferson 2005).

In his comments during the signing, President Bush spoke directly about the “growing threat” of methamphetamine and the measures taken by the legislation to address it. “Meth is easy to make. It is highly addictive. It is ruining too many lives across our country,” President Bush stated. “The bill introduces commonsense safeguards that would make many of the ingredients used in manufacturing meth harder to obtain in bulk, and easier for law enforcement to track…The bill also increases penalties for smuggling and selling of meth. Our nation is committed to protecting our citizens and our young people from the scourge of methamphetamine.”

Methamphetamine is the first drug to generate national concern in the United States in the twenty-first century. Its spread from the West Coast to the Midwest and now into the Southeast has prompted many to speak of the meth problem as an epidemic. And as with previous drug epidemics in the United States, the problem has been framed overwhelmingly as a law enforcement issue. The legislation contained in the PATRIOT Act, for instance, authorized double the amount of funding for law enforcement initiatives in “meth hot spots” as what it allocated for stopping the importation of meth from Mexico, improving the health of children affected by meth, assisting incarcerated female meth offenders with their children, and funding meth lab cleanup initiatives—combined. Thus the response to methamphetamine has involved repetition of the same punitive paradigm that has come to characterize efforts to address illicit drugs in the United States (Bertram et al. 1996).

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