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Editorial: Thwarting meth

Monday, February 11, 2008

For a time after Missouri, in 2005, limited access to over-the-counter cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine, the number of methamphetamine labs in the state declined. Pseudoephedrine is a key ingredient in the making of meth. But it didn't take the meth makers long to figure out ways to get around Missouri's new law.

The law requires medicines with pseudoephedrine to be kept behind the counter. It also requires photo identification to make purchases, limits how much cold medicine can be purchased each month and requires pharmacies to keep logs of all sales.

Meth makers quickly learned -- as have countless inconvenienced, law-abiding citizens with clogged sinuses -- that cold medicine containing pseudoephedrine can be purchased in large quantities by involving friends and relatives in making multiple purchases and by going to many pharmacies (called smurfing) to buy the maximum amounts of the cold medicines.

With only paper records, which require law enforcement to visit each pharmacy, to detect buying patterns, it has been difficult to effectively use the new law to nab meth makers. State Sen. Norma Champion of Springfield, Mo., has proposed legislation that would create an electronic database of purchases that would be immediately accessible, allowing law enforcement to track multiple sales of cold medicines by purchaser and location.

Assuming Champion's proposal is affordable, it would make sense to have as much data at the fingertips of law enforcement as possible. And the state likely would see another dip in meth labs. But for how long? Now is the time to give some thought to how meth makers would get around this new hurdle so they can be thwarted from the outset.

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Stand in line at Walmart pharmacies and listen to the people waiting to buy their cold and sinus medicines that used to be over-the-counter. Every one of them knows that this was a useless, feel-good law, which anyone with any intelligence at all knew would only inconvenience everyone, including the meth-producers.

-- Posted by gurusmom on Mon, Feb 11, 2008, at 1:58 AM

amen gurusmom, and now there will be an electronic database of people with sinus troubles. This won't stop abuse by meth cookers but will, I suppose, make it easier to gather info for a prosecution after the fact. I would almost guarantee there will be harassment of innocent people with chronic sinus problems. And I'll throw out the real reason this law has been proposed. Ms. Champion will be able to say during her next campaign that she was tough on meth.

-- Posted by stevmo on Mon, Feb 11, 2008, at 7:56 AM

Many members of the drug task force didn't like pseudofed going behind the counter as it was easy to spot the cooks who were going into the store and buying several boxes. Target went one step further and had a rack of lithium batteries next to the pseudo. Seems a bit like hunting over bait but, just like that kind of hunting, makes it kind of easy.

-- Posted by Tom_Grey on Mon, Feb 11, 2008, at 8:35 AM

I will bet that there is a huge blackmarket in pseudoephedrine. I have been on this earth long enough to know that no matter how much you control things, if the demand is there the product will be there. I may not be around when it happens, but some day people will figure out that the war on drugs is a waste of time. When that happens, my opinion is that using drugs won't be seen as cool by many and the use of drugs will settle to the point it was before the war on drugs began. The war on drugs has made a profitable business for criminals.

-- Posted by BCStoned on Mon, Feb 11, 2008, at 8:56 AM

Hardly a huge black market in pseudoephedrine why smuggle that when you can smuggle the actual drug itself. All the law did was inconvenience good citizens and make cheap imported Mexican meth the drug of choice over the homemade stuff for the addicts. On the plus side Mexican meth has a bit fewer nasty additives and we avoid cleanuping a few extra toxic trailers. On the other hand the imported stuff is supplied by violent criminal gangs, hardcore addicts are forced to steal for money since they it is much more difficult to cook their own, and the potency of the Mexican stuff is higher leading to stronger addictions and more potential for overdoses. Just another winning solution in our War on Drugs.

-- Posted by Nil on Mon, Feb 11, 2008, at 10:04 PM

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