Retailers Drawn Into Meth War

Oct 21, 2004

By George Anderson

Law enforcement officials will tell you that methamphetamine is everywhere.

The reason, besides the highly addictive nature of the narcotic, is that the “poor man’s cocaine” is easy to make. Its ingredients are found in common products such as over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines sold in grocery and drugstores.

As Oregon’s governor, Ted Kulongoski (D) said, “Meth labs exist in Oregon homes, hotels, motels, apartments and even in automobiles. They are just as likely to be found in rural communities as they are in big cities, leading some experts to call this the first rural drug epidemic.”

The rise of methamphetamine use and the corresponding violent crime associated with it has pushed states to take some aggressive steps to reduce the access pushers have to the raw materials needed to make the drug.

In Oregon last week, the state passed regulations restricting the sale of cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine, the key precursor used to make meth, for an initial period of six months. Stores will be required to move the product behind the counter and customers will be required to furnish a photo ID to make a purchase.

Jack Holt, owner and pharmacist at Hi-School Pharmacy in Silverton,

Ore., told the Silverton Appeal Tribune he favors the new regulations.

“Most things that say ‘decongestant’ will have to be moved behind the counter,” he said. “The change might have a small effect on sales, but communication between the pharmacist and the customer will increase — which is a good thing.”

“Sudafed and other products contain nothing but the meth ingredient have been behind the counter for years, but the new rule demands that all products containing a mixture of psuedoephedrine, product names like Robitussin, Nyquil, and Clortrimiton, will be moved to a new location,” he added.

One downside for law-abiding citizens is the new rules will not allow for purchases when a pharmacy is closed. That, said Mr. Holt, rules out middle of the night runs to the store to pick up a product to alleviate cold or allergy symptoms.

Moderator’s Comments: What can or should retailers being doing to reduce the abuse of products containing pseudoephedrine?
Should retailers that sell products containing pseudoephedrine adopt practices such as those in Oregon and Oklahoma, even if not required by law in the states where they do business?

Oklahoma, also has restricted the sale of products containing pseudoephedrine and, according to a Christian Science Monitor report, it has reduced
the number of meth labs in operation and saved the state millions in police and court costs.

There is also activity on the Federal level. The CSM article reported that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) of California and Sen. Gordon Smith (R) of Oregon are
looking to enact legislation restricting the importation of pseudoephedrine.

George Anderson – Moderator

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