April 10, 2001

APRIL 10, 2001

CONTACT: Charles Dow, Director Communications And Legislative Affairs 207-626-8577 James Cameron, Assistant Attorney General, Drug Prosecution Coordinator 207-626-8505

Attorney General Steven Rowe today appealed for lawmakers to pass three bills dealing with illegal drug abuse in Maine. The bills focus on the disturbing increase in the illegal use of two types of drugs: prescription narcotics like Oxycontin and so-called "club drugs" like ecstasy (MDMA) and the date-rape drugs (GHB and Ketamine). "These drugs and the crimes people will commit to get them represent a serious threat to Maine families and communities. These drugs are ruining-and sometimes ending-lives," said Rowe.

State Representative Edward Povich (D-Ellsworth) asked colleagues to support of major legislation to combat diversion of prescription narcotic medications to illegal use. Povich, the House Chair of the Legislature's Criminal Justice Committee, said, "These drugs are so addictive, users resort to almost anything to get them. This bill gets at the ways the addicts get the drugs."

LD 1728 prevents the use of forged, altered, or counterfeit prescriptions by requiring that prescription blanks printed on tamper-resistant safety paper. It prevents obtaining prescriptions through fraud on doctors ("doctor shopping") by making it a crime - acquiring drugs by deception - to lie to a doctor to get pills. It also makes it easier to charge the crime of forgery when a person uses a forged, altered, or counterfeit prescription to get pills illegally.

District Attorneys in the most rural parts of Maine report major increases in court cases involving drugs and drug-related burglary, theft, fraud, and violence. DA Michael Povich (District 7, Hancock and Washington County) said, "Per capita, Washington County has an extremely high rate of prosecutions for prescription drug related crimes. That tells you we are taking the problem seriously, but it also tells you something about the enormous scope of the problem."

DA Neale Adams (District 8, Aroostook County) also reported a growing drug related docket. "As we investigate these cases, we find clearly that the common thread is the prescription narcotics," Adams said.

It is no coincidence that addiction rates seem high in border counties. Senator Kevin Shorey (R-Washington) sponsored LD 1725, which makes it a felony to smuggle scheduled drugs, like narcotic pills, across the state border. The bill does not apply, of course, to anyone with a legal prescription. "Some people think that our friendly border is no barrier to peddling pills in Washington County. When this bill passes, that border is going to be downright unfriendly to drug smugglers," said Shorey.

The use of harmful "club drugs" by young people in Maine caused House Minority Whip William Schneider (R-Durham) to sponsor LD 1727, which adds ecstasy (MDMA) and the date-rape drugs Ketamine and GHB to the list of scheduled drugs. They are called club drugs because they initially became popular at all-night dance club parties called raves. Schneider, a former drug prosecutor in the AG's office, cited the serious danger of the use of these drugs as a reason to impose serious penalties for possession, distribution, and trafficking. "This is not kid stuff," said Schneider, "people get brain damage, they suffer tragic sexual assault, they die. It has happened here in Maine, but it must stop."

District Attorney Norman Croteau (District 3, Androscoggin, Oxford, and Franklin County) said he looked forward to having the enforcement tools LD 1727 would provide. "We know about the drug use at the raves in Androscoggin County. This bill provides what we need in order to prosecute," said Croteau.