Here’s an unfortunate headline from the weekend: Luck Runs Out After Lottery Winner Uses Jackpot to Start Meth Business.
“Florida man,” for once, is not responsible for this strange headline. Instead, a Brunswick, Georgia man by the name of Ronnie Music Jr. is the one behind the news.
Using part of a $3 million jackpot he won last year, this Georgia man decided to “invest” in crystal methamphetamine to sell across the southeast.
“Music decided to test his luck by sinking millions of dollars of lottery winnings into the purchase and sale of crystal meth,” said U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver, as reported by the Daily Report. “As a result of his unsound investment strategy, Music now faces decades in a federal prison.”
This wild story speaks to a real problem in Georgia, although, admittedly, the challenges of addiction and drug abuse are not nearly so bad in Georgia as they are for many of our Southern neighbors. The discovery of meth labs in Georgia has decreased in the past few years, and, even at its peak of 331 in 2010, this number pales in comparison to over 2,100 labs seized by the DEA in Tennessee in the same year.
Dealing with the distribution of the likes of meth and heroin is just one part of the equation (and a part that continues to result in significant racial disparities in sentencing). Dealing with substance use and abuse, as the addictions they are, will continue to need policymakers to champion what can be an uncomfortable, stigma-ridden issue at times.
The “not in my backyard” approach to dealing with substance abuse continues to be a problem. Earlier this year, this manifested as Rep. Joyce Chandler (R-Grayson) joining her neighbors to decry a proposed drug and alcohol rehabilitation center going up in their neighborhood. Part of the concern, of course, is that it would “would adversely affect our community in property values…,” Chandler said.
Fun fact: Chandler was just assigned to serve on a House Study Committee on Mental Illness Initiative, Reform, Public Health and Safety.
So that bodes well.
A report just released by SAMHSA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration) shows that, over the past ten years, drug use has increased in Georgia from about 8 percent of the population reporting this behavior in 2002-2004, to 9.5 percent of the population in 2012-2014. In that same time, the report shows Georgia has hardly made a dent in the number of folks needing — but not receiving — treatment, still about 2.5 percent of the population.
Perhaps by the time Music gets out of prison (assuming medical neglect doesn’t kill him while he is in there), he’ll find a Georgia with a vastly different, and hopefully much less profitable, landscape around drug abuse.