If there is any good news about methamphetamine coming to Maine it is that the state is among the last to deal with the problem and can learn from others about how best to prevent and treat abuse of this drug. In a report released recently, the National Association of Counties said methamphetamine was the nation's top drug problem, worse than marijuana or cocaine. The group called for more federal funding to deal with meth. That would be helpful, but in the meantime, local communities must be prepared to deal with this dangerous drug.
Maine has been proactive. A law limiting the sale of nonprescription cold remedies, such as Sudafed, which can be used to produce meth, was overwhelmingly passed by the legislature this spring. The new law also permits pharmacists to ask for a photo I.D. from a purchaser.
Another feature of the law will set up a "Meth Watch" program to train retail sales people and eventually the general public in detection and reporting likely meth manufacturers. Trainers from Kansas, where the national Meth Watch program started, are expected to come to Maine to help get things started. The public will be alerted to look for abandoned cars and buildings that may have covered windows and nearby dumpsites of old battery cases, empty antifreeze containers, and other refuse from the ingredients used to make meth.
The problems are particularly bad in the Pacific Northwest and Southwest. It has taken about a decade for the drug, which is made in home labs or smuggled, already made, into the country, to reach Maine.
Although the state's numbers are small, they are increasing rapidly. Admissions to treatment programs where methamphetamine was the primary drug used grew from nineteen in 2002 to thirty-nine in 2004, according to the Office of Substance Abuse.
Methamphetamine is of particular concern in Maine for two reasons. First, the state has seen a large increase in cocaine use in the past two years. Meth is much cheaper than cocaine and produces a longer-lasting high, which will make it attractive to many of the state's drug users. Also, a survey of high school students by the Office of Substance Abuse found that many teens were already abusing stimulants, making them more susceptible to the lure of meth.
Another benefit of being among the last to deal with the problem is that the negative effects of meth are well-known. For example, many young people already know about meth mouth. As a result of using the drug, teeth lose their enamel, disintegrate, loosen, and fall out. The Office of Substance Abuse plans to use such information to educate potential users about the dangers of meth. Law enforcement agencies will be responsible for trying to keep the supply of the drug low.
Maine has a lot to prepare for, but it has already taken some good steps.
—Bangor Daily News
Changes in lifestyles, attitudes, and demographics usually show up in the marketplace. It's somewhat of a surprise, however, that changes in today's culture have acted like a wet blanket on the camping industry.
Acadia National Park reports the number of campers there has dropped 22 percent in the last ten years. Across the country, camping is down 12 percent in the last five years.
Has there been a rash of bad weather? A shortage of propane for cookstoves?
No. The gear and the weather are as good as ever. What's changed, say analysts, are several cultural factors. For one, the big clump of baby boomers is getting older and turning to a more comfortable way of vacationing. Viewed in the extreme, it could be argued the cohort is getting soft — traveling in air-conditioned cars, sleeping in air-conditioned motel rooms.
Another factor cited is the prevalence of hectic lifestyles. That begs the question: Does it really take that much time to pack up a tent, sleeping bags, camping gear, firewood, soggy clothes, kids, bug repellant, tent stakes . . . well, yes, it does. On the other hand, we should be able to multitask a camping trip.
A third, intriguing factor in the decline of camping is said to be disenchantment among younger people who prefer a technological environment, perhaps even Internet access at campgrounds. Such a revelation might lead officials at Acadia to throw up their hands. The point to camping, of course, is to get away from it all. Say it again: to get away from it all.
On balance, Maine's economy might not suffer as campers dwindle. Other vacation attractions will reap the rewards. To have lived and never camped, however, is to miss out on an experience that can't be found in a hotel or a plush RV.
—Maine Sunday Telegram, Portland
Passing the Buck . . . Again
The state's financial problems will persist so long as the legislature refuses to do its job of aggressively overseeing state spending. There are two fundamental reasons why our elected state officials have all but shirked their crucial job as watchdog over the executive branch and its spending policies and proposals.
First, the lobbyists. Because Maine is such a small state, lobbyists here have remarkable access to and influence over legislators. The entire legislative body in Maine is contained on the third floor of the State House. The lobbyists mill around the small passageway between the House and Senate waiting for a chance to talk to key lawmakers. They seldom have to wait long.
Second is the fake oversight system created by the legislature where each state department is assigned to a legislative "committee of oversight." Each committee makes budget recommendations for their respective departments after reviewing the governor's initial proposal.
But invariably, despite tough talk and tough times, the committees do little real probing of state spending and certainly don't insist that the department leaders justify their staff levels or present a serious, credible priority list for each two-year budget cycle.
The new budget that took effect July 1 was passed by the Democrats in March after just a few weeks of "review" by the committees of oversight. As a result of the rush, and as a result of the lack of meaningful oversight and leadership, lawmakers were forced to cobble together an eleventh-hour budget fix to avoid borrowing $250 million for routine ongoing expenses such as payroll.
The fact that the $250 million loan was included in the budget in the first place illustrates the problem: Our legislature will buy into any gimmick to avoid balancing the budget the old-fashioned way — by reducing nonessential spending and carefully considering ways to increase revenue to ensure the weakest citizens and strongest programs are protected.
The good news is that every two years we get another chance to do that. And when citizens have finally had enough, they will demand it.
—Sun Journal, Lewiston
North Woods Compromise
Environmental groups should work with Plum Creek Timber Company rather than launch an all-out assault on its plans to develop a portion of the Moosehead Lake region. And Plum Creek should recognize the value of having a national park in its backyard.
For one thing, the fierceness of the opposition is creating a climate that has resulted in one case of vandalism and one case of burglary of the Plum Creek office — this is unacceptable. And trying to block all development reveals a blind spot — i.e., the need for serious economic growth soon in northern Maine.
True, environmentalists have been lobbying to create a Maine Woods National Park and Preserve. They foresee it expanding the tourism economy, creating new jobs, and drawing new businesses and permanent residents to local communities outside the park to meet the needs of all the new tourists.
But the national park idea must win congressional authority for a feasibility study during an administration that is anything but pro-wilderness. And that is just the next step. Only 6.3 percent of the land that would be the park is owned by the state, and three-tenths of one percent is owned by the federal government. We're talking a long, long process for an idea that's been very controversial.
The Natural Resources Council of Maine is right that Plum Creek's plans are out of character for the region. So is the LNG terminal proposed by Quoddy Bay LLC for Passamaquoddy tribal land at Pleasant Point in Washington County. But serious economic development in "the other Maine" can't happen without change.
Northern Maine needs jobs. And if we lose the Brunswick Naval Air Station, the DD(X) program for Bath Iron Works, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, and some MBNA call centers, southern Mainers will need jobs, too. And sooner rather than later.
Moosehead Lake is important both to the Maine Woods National Park proposal and to Plum Creek. We think the interested parties can work together for the good of Maine.
—Times Record, Brunswick