March 1, 2005
Sniffle sufferers could be forced to show identification and sign a log book to buy Sudafed and other similar medications — all in an effort to take a chunk out of meth crimes in the state.
A House panel voted unanimously Monday in favor of HB2175, which would take any drug containing the decongestant pseudoephedrine — a popular decongestant used in making methamphetamine — off the shelves and put behind the counter.
Anyone wanting some would have to go to the pharmacist, show a governmentissued ID and sign a log book.
That book, which would be available to police, would help enforce one provision of the legislation to ensure that no one purchases more than 9 grams of the drug in any month. That’s less than half the current legal limit.
Monday’s vote by the Committee on Natural Resources and Agriculture came after pleas from not just Attorney General Terry Goddard but police department and firefighter representatives.
They said the ease of purchasing the drug not only leads to widespread availability of "speed," but also creates the danger of explosions and toxic fumes where the chemicals are "cooked."
"Getting pseudoephedrine off the shelves is good for law enforcement and good for the community," said Sgt. Rich Burden of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force.
Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies and Phoenix, Chandler, Mesa and Arizona Department of Public Safety officers are on the task force, which seizes slightly more than 60 percent of the meth labs in the state. In 2004, they seized 70 labs, 83 weapons, and 28,000 grams of meth, while making 142 arrests and rescuing 51 children, Burden said.
"I don’t think the amount of money and sales (that will be lost) will be that big a deal, especially when we’re reducing the number of meth labs in our community," said Chandler pharmacist Paul Sanchez.
But the proposal still faces an uncertain future because of opposition from some retailers, pharmacists and drug manufacturers who do not want the kinds of limits being proposed.
Mike Gardner, who represents drug companies that make Sudafed and various over-the-counter equivalents, said the legislation will hurt consumers.
"If the pharmacy is closed or if there’s not a pharmacy in my town, I won’t have access to those products," he told lawmakers.
But Rep. Tom O’Halleran, R-Sedona, panel chairman, said that isn’t telling the whole story.
"Many of the medications that are restricted and would be placed behind the counter also have counterparts that are just as effective, or almost as effective, that would not have to go behind the counter," he said.
Michelle Ahlmer, executive director of the Arizona Retailers Association, said there are other ways to cut down on meth production. She favors the approach in SB1473, being pushed by Sen. Barbara Leff, R-Paradise Valley, which imposes new penalties on those who manufacture methamphetamines, especially if there are children present, but continues to allow drugs like Sudafed on the shelf.
Foes may get their way: Sen. John Huppenthal, R-Chandler, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, said Monday he remains unconvinced that the kind of sales restrictions being proposed by O’Halleran will do any good.
Huppenthal acknowledged that Oklahoma saw a sharp drop in the number of meth houses raided after its new law put the drugs behind the counter.
But Huppenthal said other states — including Arizona — also have seen a decline as police enforce existing laws.
Current law allows an individual to purchase up to 24 grams of pseudoephedrine in one month. HB2175 would limit monthly sales to 9 grams.
9 grams could produce
300 30 mg tables 150 60 mg tablets 100 90 mg capsules
90 mg capsules produce about one pound of methamphetamine.
of meth is equal to single dose for beginning user
of meth produces close to 91,000 doses for a beginning user
1 4 gram
which is about 50 doses, costs about $25 on the street
SOURCE: Tucson Police Department
- Tribune writer Kim Smith contributed to this report.