Western Slope GOP caucus declares war on tweakers

Three Grand Junction Republican state lawmakers are standing their ground with a vow to fight to the end against meth, except Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry may want to reconsider the Alamo-inspired drug war battle cry. The 33-year-old politician could be collecting government retirement benefits before ever holding a victory parade — Colorado ranks eighth in the nation in per-capita methamphetamine use.

SB 231, which passed the Senate today, extends the Colorado Methamphetamine Task Force through 2014 from its planned sunset next year. Penry’s fellow co-sponsors state Reps. Steve King and Laura Bradford and Democratic Rep. Judy Solano from Aurora were touted in the press release this afternoon to promote the bill’s bipartisan sponsor bona fides. Fellow Republican co-sponsor Cortez Rep. Scott Tipton was inexplicably omitted from the congratulatory back-slapping.

The ravages of meth abuse and its associated criminal activity were outlined by Attorney General John Suthers in a Feb. 5 Denver Post story:

Colorado ranks eighth in the nation in per-capita methamphetamine use, costing the state roughly $1.4 billion a year. … “Abuse of methamphetamine brings a whole host of problems with it, particularly crimes such as burglaries and ID thefts,” Suthers said. “In Colorado, roughly two-thirds of all ID thefts are caused by methamphetamine users. Colorado ranks sixth in the country for ID theft.

While the Minority Office press release claims the task force itself is “completely funded by gifts, grants, and donations,” the war on drugs is not.

Supporting a toothless task force tiger makes little sense when as King notes, “Even though we’ve turned the corner on meth addiction on the West Slope, continued focus and support on treatment, enforcement and prevention are to vital to guarantee the elimination of this dark plague on our society.”

Stateline.org reports that Suthers hailed the feds at a Washington, D.C. meeting of state attorneys general with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder last week:

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, a Republican, praised Obama for including more than $2 billion in funding for anti-drug efforts in the recently approved economic stimulus package. The money comes in the form of direct grants to states and localities to pay for drug task forces, prosecutors and other law enforcement needs.

Suthers questioned why anti-drug funds were included in what was billed strictly as an economic stimulus plan, but he noted that he and other state officials had been asking for the money for months. The Bush administration repeatedly sought to eliminate the grant program that Suthers and other state attorneys general pushed.

Penry and the state Republican leadership may want to huddle with their congressional delegation — Reps. Doug Lamborn and Mike Coffman — who voted against the federal economic stimulus package and are making noise that they will not support the Obama admnistration’s federal budget, in which further drug-fighting grants will be allocated to the states.

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Wendy Norris

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