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Legal Group to Educate South Asian Store Owners About Meth Abuse

March 2006
Legal Group to Educate South Asian Store Owners About Meth Abuse

NASABA and Drug Enforcement Agency to launch C-Store Outreach Project

The recent indictments and arrests of several South Asian convenience store owners in Atlanta and other parts of the country continue to be the focus of several organizations and advocacy groups. Close on the heels of the protests in Atlanta in January against the Drug Enforcement Administration's sting, "Operation Meth Merchant," comes the "C-Store Outreach Project."

The North American South Asian Bar Association (NASABA) announced in February that the joint outreach project with DEA is aimed at educating and creating awareness among the South Asian community about methamphetamine (meth). The outreach project comes in light of accusations that the arrests in Georgia were racially motivated.

According to a 2005 crime survey conducted by the National Association of Counties, meth has become the number one drug problem, surpassing cocaine, in rural and small towns in the United States. Because ingredients to make meth are readily available over the counter, NASABA's outreach program is aimed at educating South Asian retailers, many of who have limited command of the English language, to be aware of purchases that can also be used for meth production such as common cold remedies, cooking fuels, kitty litter and aluminum foil. NASABA believes education and creating awareness among South Asian convenience store owners are key steps to fighting the drug problem.

"The problem requires educating store owners and operators who sell these harmless products that (a), the products can be used to make drugs, and (b), how not to be exploited by those who use convenience stores to purchase those products," said Habib F. Ilahi, co-chair of NASABA's Criminal Justice Committee. "We want to work with the DEA to break the language barrier and educate the c-store operators on what to watch out for. This will allow the South Asian community to take an active stand against the meth problem."

As part of the outreach, the DEA, with NASABA's input, has created a poster translated into several South Asian languages for retailers to post in their stores. The poster graphically depicts the items commonly used in meth production and directs store employees to contact the DEA if they suspect a customer purchasing items to produce meth. In addition, NASABA plans to hold forums in major cities like Atlanta and Houston, and has invited the DEA to speak to the community about how meth is made and what items store owners should keep an eye out for. The forums will also provide an opportunity for South Asian store merchants to direct any concerns and questions they may have directly to the DEA.

"Meth has spread across our country like wildfire, leaving only scars of human potential in its wake," said Mary Irene Cooper, chief of Congressional and Public Affairs for the Drug Enforcement Administration. "Retailers need to be part of this nation's strategy to effectively beat back this blaze. Fortunately, the DEA is making progress fighting meth manufacturing and trafficking, and teens' use is declining. We are committed to working with allies like NASABA to promote knowledge about meth and further combat this deadly drug."

NASABA's president, Sabita Singh, understanding the need to educate, both the South Asian community and the DEA, explained that, "NASABA hopes that this outreach program will help the nation's efforts to combat meth production, while also helping to insure that South Asian store owners are not unfairly targeted by public entities."

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