|This article is a bit late. Hopefully, it had nothing to do with this reporter being down-wind from the smoke that whirled around with the currents.
Rep. Roy Blunt lit a torch last Wednesday to an estimated street value of $1.2 million worth of high grade marijuana, some of it processed, some of it plucked from local fields. Blunt, U.S. Attorney Todd Graves, and several law enforcement personnel, including McDonald County Sheriff Robert M. Evenson, had convened in the parking lot of the Newton County Sheriff's Department in Neosho as part of Blunt's effort to curb methamphetamines in the four-county area.
Now you could be asking what does destroying pot have to do with meth?
"Beefing up the borders due to Homeland Security issues will drive these guys more toward the meth trade," Blunt told the group. "We need to start right here where we know the meth problem exists."
Federal prosecutors are looking for what they can do to help out local law enforcement, Blunt said. While he said that he saw a real effort on the part of law enforcement to curb the meth problem, he was non-committal over the question of whether drug trafficking has been lessened, especially with the lack of necessary funding to support drug enforcement efforts.
The issue that concerned him the most was the growing endangerment of children who are innocent witnesses to the manufacture of meth and the use of weapons. With too much ingredient found right on store shelves, Blunt wants to see zero tolerance for existing laws controlling the sale of these products and an expansion of current law relating to putting children in harm's way. He gave Sen. Jim Talent credit for his attempts to gain stiffer control on guns, although Talent's record seems inconsistent on this issue.
Blunt called attention to his visit to a former meth house in north Joplin. He saw toys piled in one corner while a single gas mask near the kitchen sink suggested the person cooking meth had protected only himself.
Of course, the credit for having confiscated enough marijuana to fill the large bin, can only be given to Newton County Sheriff Ron Doerge (pictured right), who with the support of his department, has been a driving force in trying to keep the Newton County area free of drugs and in stopping drugs from being transported along the I-44 corridor. Many local citizens are unhappy over Doerge's decision not to seek re-election.
In answer to the log jam in bringing perpetrators to justice, Doerge suggested the hiring of a special prosecutor just to handle drug operations. In regard to his upcoming retirement, Doerge said he just plans to kick back and relax.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Methamphetamine will be the topic of a program by the local Child Advocacy Council Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2004, from 6:30-8:30 p.m., Webster Hall, Missouri Southern State University, Joplin. Speakers from the Dept. of Public Safety and Family Services will be lecturing followed by the opportunity for the community to ask questions. Sheriff Ron Doerge will be one of the presenters. In the meantime a Meth Hotline has been set up by the Missouri Attorney General's Office for reporting any problems dealing with meth. Callers may remain anonymous. (800) 292-8222.