Karen P. Tandy
Administrator, Drug Enforcement Administration
National Methamphetamine Chemicals Initiative Conference
Dallas, Texas
May 18, 2006

I have attended or spoken at this conference almost since its beginning in the 1990s and it is great to be back. It started as a US conference, quickly expanded to a US-Canadian conference, and not surprisingly is now a US-Canadian-Mexico-UK-Australia and Chile meeting. 2 years ago in Ottawa, I mentioned that one day that this conference would include Mexico and China…we are almost there.

While each of us naturally wants to keep our focus on what we can do about what is happening in our own backyard, our own community – with meth, our backyard has become the globe.

Methampetamine trafficking and the movement of its chemicals are now a global epidemic. More than 26 million people worldwide use amphetamines – largely methamphetamine -- which is more than the worldwide users of heroin and cocaine combined.

At DEA’s International Drug Enforcement Conference (IDEC) in Chile last year – I could see the world changing as to meth in the more than 70 countries represented. At least one traditionally heroin using country had replaced heroin with meth as their drug of choice. Meth chemists from China had moved into the Philippines and set up mega meth/ice labs.

When IDEC reconvened with 76 countries last week in Montreal – more countries than ever were part of the meth chemical movement chain. Because of the law enforcement successes with Hong Kong and Mexico in pre-identifying and stopping precursor chemical shipments, we now see precursor chemicals from India and China being re-routed through new places like Cairo and South Africa before going to Mexico.

And, in a more disturbing trend, we began seeing Chinese organized crime groups in Canada selling tens of thousands of pills, that looked like and were marketed as Ecstasy -- but instead was 100% methamphetamine. Those meth pills are now turning up in the US. If this Ecstasy “bait and switch” marketing trend continues….we will see a new host of unwitting meth addicts at potentially younger ages.

All of this could be daunting – but as law enforcement, we are accustomed to the challenges of shifting to overcome new trafficking trends. And, we have plenty of reasons to be optimistic--

  • In just 1 year of tough state legislation, we have seen mom and pop meth labs slashed 40% nationally. And that downward trend should continue across the country between new state laws and the passage of the Combat Meth Act – preventing America from becoming a toxic waste dump, saving thousands of innocent children from contamination.
  • In DEA, we have established new dedicated meth task forces along the Southwest Border, and, with the time saved from 40% fewer small toxic labs and 87% fewer superlabs in the US – we expanded the focus of our clan lab teams across the country so that they are not just attacking clan labs but also investigating and shutting down the US meth transportation and distribution cells.
  • DEA is following Mexico’s lead in setting precursor chemical quotas for the first time, to limit the US importation of these chemicals to that amount needed for legitimate use, as required by the Combat Meth Act.
  • And, as you heard from Attorney General Gonzales, DEA also for the first time will be publicly posting the thousands of sites where toxic chemicals and meth labs have been seized so that innocent citizens will not be victimized. Like the older couple in Minnesota who suffered a long list of medical conditions – diabetes, stomach distress, liver infection – after moving into a home that had been a meth lab. And the new homeowners who found out too late that they had moved into a former meth lab – and lost family heirlooms and children’s artwork that had become contaminated, or the family that discovered their child’s crib tested positive for meth toxins well above any acceptable limits, and the Colorado family that lost their in-home day care business and went bankrupt because they innocently moved into a former meth house. This will be the first such national, listing of seized former meth sites, available free of charge to the public.

And I am optimistic because…

  • Internationally, in the past two months, The United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs passed a new resolution that for the first time provides for broadly tracking the worldwide shipments of precursor chemicals including the previously unreported pharmaceutical preparations and more broadly sharing that information with affected countries beyond just those at the direct shipment points.
  • Plus, DEA has a new information sharing agreement with China.
  • For the first time in history, the US Attorney General and the Mexico Attorney General are standing together to announce a real plan to tackle the other 80 % of meth production affecting us in this room.
  • I have been in drug enforcement and prosecution for 28 years – I know the difference between political posturing and the real thing. What you have just heard this morning is real – from real clan lab teams in the meth hot spots within Mexico with DEA donated clan lab trucks -- to joint targeting based on shared intelligence, and port task forces on both sides of the border.
  • For those who have been quick to write off any hope of making real headway against drug traffickers in Mexico – today is a new day.