Montana Politics US Politics

Burns on Meth

I’ve written before that I believe that at least a portion of the discussion about meth is nothing more than a scare tactic about the drug du jour, but Senator Burns doesn’t share my belief, claiming at least twice in the recent Whitefish debate that he was leading the fight against meth, specifically offshore production of the drug.

In fact, last year Burns said:

It’s one of the fastest growing drug problems faced by our country today, and it’s absolutely devastating to every life that it impacts.  With this group, I intend to put the Senate on the front lines in the battle to protect our families, our communities and our state from this drug.

It turns out that Senator Burns was lying about that, too. The Great Falls Tribune previously reported in November that the Senator was a key vote in a bil that led to a 34% reduction in Byrne grants, which help fund local and state anti-drug efforts. Those costs are starting to have a real impact, according to Attorney General Mike Mcgrath, in today’s IR:

Federal money for Montana’s drug crackdown task forces has shrunk more than 61 percent in the last two years, pushing more of the costs on local taxpayers.

“If this funding trend continues the communities aren’t going to be able to make up the difference,” said Attorney General Mike McGrath.

For now, McGrath said, local governments have scraped together enough money to keep the task forces going for the year that began July 1.  But he cautioned that situation is only temporary.

“We’ve been told by the local communities that they will not be able to make this level of match next year and they’ll have to make cuts,” McGrath said.

One group, the Missouri River Drug Task Force, which includes Butte and Helena, may even have to disband.

So, while Senator Burns touts his work on meth with meaningless political gestures like the Anti-Meth Caucus, he is gutting the state and local programs that work on drug interdiction. Sounds like the Senator is more interested in making it sound like he is working on the meth problem than actually fighting for programs he believes in.

His defense?

Burns defended the cuts saying many programs took hits that year and lawmakers had to work to protect the Byrne program from even deeper cuts.

Burns spokesman James Pendleton said last week that the creation of the federal Department of Homeland Security siphoned some of the duties and money out of the Department of Justice.  To make up for cuts to the Byrne program, Burns has tried to include other money to help Montana law enforcement and said the state actually saw an increase in federal law enforcement dollars.

Well, it’s certainly reassuring that Senator Burns ‘tried.’ So much for that vaunted seniority three terms have brought Senator Burns. It sounds to me like the rest of the Senate is just saying no to his request…if he’s even made them.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.


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  • I had read somewhere (I have since lost the citation) that the meth problem as it is today claims the same number of addicts as the crack problem TODAY. Not the crack problem of the 1980s, the unmentioned, fading-away problem of crack today. There is no doubt in my mind that the so-called “meth crisis” is a fabrication.

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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