East Valley local governments want tougher regulations on methmaking medicines, saying a new state law that kicks in Nov. 6 isn’t enough.
Under the law, Sudafed and other cold/allergy remedies that contain pseudoephedrine or ephedrine as the only active ingredient must be behind the counter, and only three boxes can be purchased at a time. Pseudoephedrine is the one chemical necessary to make the illegal drug methamphetamine.
But the Scottsdale City Council meets Nov. 15 to consider harsher regulations, and Gilbert Town Councilman Larry Morrison has expressed interest in doing the same.
Both were influenced by the East Valley Interfaith Alliance and the League of Arizona Cities and Towns.
The Alliance plans to continue going city by city, urging ordinances that call for stricter standards than the state law. The league meets Oct. 28 at the Phoenix Zoo to discuss whether to urge the Legislature to toughen it.
"I think it’s a little bit out of control, it’s so easy to produce it right now," said Scottsdale Councilman Tom Silverman of methamphetamine. "Whatever we can do to make it better, to slow it down and to eradicate it, I think we need to do."
Phoenix has already created a tougher ordinance, requiring customers to sign a list beginning Dec. 6, which will be turned over monthly to the police to check for unusually large purchases. The Phoenix ordinance also allows the city to seize medication displayed on open shelves instead of behind the counter.
But some state officials are concerned the typical cold sufferer will be the one who pays for new municipal ordinances. And they say the new state law is written to preclude municipalities from creating harsher standards.
Sen. Barbara Leff, RParadise Valley sponsored the law and another that became effective Aug. 12 that dramatically increased prison time for people making meth around children.
She insists the new standards should be tested before changing the law, especially since the Drug Enforcement Administration reports that as much as 90 percent of pseudoephedrine used in Arizona meth labs is coming from Mexico, not local stores.
"My focus was to go after people who are actually trafficking or cooking methamphetamine," she said. "What the cities are doing I think is way too severe and it won’t make a bit of difference in the methamphetamine problem that we have."
Dick White, a co-chairman of the interfaith alliance, said he’s heard too many stories of lives ruined by the drug to back down.
"We recognize this is not the only or final answer," he said. "There is a significant amount of meth that comes in to the state from outside the state. But this will take a bite out."
Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard said it’s "terrific" that municipalities are taking the initiative and passing local ordinances.
"But that’s going to create a patchwork of coverage, unfortunately, across the state," he said. "Certain city areas will have restrictions, whereas county areas will not."
Many area stores already have in place corporate policies keeping the medication behind the counter, often in the store’s pharmacy.
"What we’d like to see is a consistent approach across the country, so we’re not dealing with 45 different laws in 45 different states," said Walgreens national spokesman Michael Polzin, whose company began restricting the purchases and keeping all products in pharmacies two years ago.