Anti-drug plan gets go-ahead

Anti-drug plan gets go-ahead

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GAZETTE STATE BUREAU

HELENA – Montana needs a comprehensive plan to tackle its drug and alcohol-related problems, but the state has no extra money for costly new programs or initiatives, Gov. Judy Martz told a fledgling statewide drug policy task force on Wednesday.

Martz and Attorney General Mike McGrath spoke to the first meeting of the state’s Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Control Policy Task Force, telling group’s two dozen members that their work will be important in crafting policy proposals for the 2003 Legislature. But the governor warned the members not to expect too much new state funding for programs – saying the state will only have an additional $16 million to spend on any new initiatives when the Legislature returns next January.

Still, Martz called the task force “groundbreaking” and said she will take seriously any initiatives the group brings forward. She said she expects “not feel-good things, but real solutions.”

“This is part of the whole entire package of how to change Montana,” said Martz, a Republican.

McGrath, a Democrat who joined with the governor to create the task force, said one of his key areas of concern is the state’s methamphetamine epidemic and its burden on corrections, social services and law enforcement.

“That alone is a tremendous issue,” McGrath said of meth.

“It has a huge impact, and we need from you some direction,” he said.

Besides looking at meth-related problems, the task force is charged with developing an overall statewide drug policy, which many states have but Montana lacks. By Sept. 1, the group is to analyze data concerning drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse in Montana, come up with suggestions on how to tackle all the related problems and prepare suggestions to change state law.

“You have a very big task,” McGrath acknowledged.

Martz also told the panel she believes that the 2003 Legislature must change Montana’s DUI law to conform with national standards. The state stands to lose highway funding if it doesn’t change its legal blood-alcohol limit on drunken driving from the current .10 percent to .08 percent.

“We’re going to have to go with the law,” Martz said. “We cannot afford to lose the funding.”

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