Senate mulls plan to curb drug abuse

ALEXANDRIA, Va. —The long-standing war on drug abuse may soon be fought neighborhood by neighborhood.

The U.S. Senate last month began considering new legislation to root out early-stage drug abuse in the communities where it first takes hold. The bill, which has the backing of both Democrats and Republicans, also gained a strong endorsement from the National Association of Chain Drug Stores after its introduction in mid-April.

NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson sent a letter on April 22 to Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, voicing the group’s support for the proposal. Its goal: to help stop drug abuse problems in the communities where they begin, before those problems move beyond the local level and impact a wider region.

The new bill targets abuse of prescription and nonprescription medications, including methamphetamine. “This bipartisan bill…builds upon the highly successful Drug Free Communities program by providing critical funding to local communities to more effectively deal with emerging drug trends and local drug crises,” wrote Anderson. “On behalf of our members, and the communities and families they serve, we are pleased to endorse your bill.”

Leahy and Grassley, who also serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced the bill as S. 3031, or the Drug Free Communities Enhancement Act of 2010. The legislation would authorize the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy to fund community efforts that address emerging local drug issues or local drug crises.

Behind the proposal, according to language inserted in S. 3031, is “historical evidence showing that emerging local drug issues and crises can be stopped or mitigated before they spread to other areas, if they are identified quickly and addressed in a comprehensive multisector manner.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the legislation April 15, clearing its way for placement on the Senate legislative calendar.

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