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Feds Want to Restrict Sale of Cold Medicine

by TChris

As TalkLeft discussed here, some states are making it more difficult for cold sufferers to buy over-the-counter medications containing pseudoephedrine, because the drug can be used (albeit not easily) to manufacture methamphetamine. Now the federal government wants to get into the act (doesn't it always?), by requiring stores that sell Sudafed, Nyquil and other medicines containing pseudoephedrine to keep them behind the pharmacy counter.

Consumers would have to show a photo ID, sign a log, and be limited to 7.5 grams - or about 250 30-milligram pills - in a 30-day period. Computer tracking would prevent customers from exceeding the limit at other stores, according to the bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Jim Talent, R-Mo.

In its present form, the bill is even more silly, as it exempts stores that don't have a pharmacy.

That exception allowed states to work with the Drug Enforcement Administration to license certain employees who are not pharmacists to sell the medicines.

Employees need to be licensed to sell Sudafed? How ridiculous. Of course, if the bill is successful, meth makers will be forced to steal Sudafed rather than buy it (just like they now steal anhydrous ammonia, another ingredient in a common meth formula). Is that beneficial for society?

In any event, if your nose is dripping (or even if it isn't), stock up on Sudafed and Nyquil now ... unless you want the feds tracking your use of cold medicine.

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    Re: Feds Want to Restrict Sale of Cold Medicine (none / 0) (#1)
    by jen on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:43 PM EST
    I wondered why the sudafed had dispeared from the rite aid I go to. I wish many colds and stuffy noses upon everyone who votes for this bill.

    Re: Feds Want to Restrict Sale of Cold Medicine (none / 0) (#2)
    by roy on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:43 PM EST
    Reminds me of gun control -- take a product that has both legitimate and illegal uses, and make people go through hoops to get it. Then act surprised when honest people are inconvenienced or endangered, and criminals continue to be criminals. (TL doesn't advocate gun control, but plenty of Leftists do)

    Re: Feds Want to Restrict Sale of Cold Medicine (none / 0) (#3)
    by MikeDitto on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:43 PM EST
    A lot of pharmacies already keep it behind the counter, just because it gets stolen so much. The same is true for Coricidin and dextromethorphan (Robitussin), which kids in particular like to get high on even without any further processing. But my impression is that they keep it behind the counter more as a loss prevention measure rather than the desire to curb meth production.

    Re: Feds Want to Restrict Sale of Cold Medicine (none / 0) (#4)
    by Che's Lounge on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:43 PM EST
    Jesus that's the stupidiest thing I've read here in many moons. What the heck is wrong with these people? Fire 'em all.

    Re: Feds Want to Restrict Sale of Cold Medicine (none / 0) (#5)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:43 PM EST
    Roy wrote:
    (TL doesn't advocate gun control, but plenty of Leftists do)
    And I'm not one of them. As a gun owner, I find gun control as absurd as the Federal government trying to regulate cough syrup. Where is this smaller government you rightwingers talked so loudly of throughout the entire 90's? Under the Bush administration, the government has grown to FDR style proportions without the strong social structure that justifies such massive proportions. All I see today is the Federal government taking my money so they can go blow up innocent people halfway around the world with it and stick their long arm right up my butt here at home. You rightwingers are one to talk, you make Clinton's big government look damn near like a Libertarian state in comparison.

    Re: Feds Want to Restrict Sale of Cold Medicine (none / 0) (#6)
    by legion on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:43 PM EST
    Computer tracking would prevent customers from exceeding the limit at other stores
    And exactly what is this "com-pu-ter tra-cking" of which you speak? I'm sure there are systems that currently connect pharmacies so they can look up patient and drug info, but as TChris notes, this ignores any outlets that don't have a pharmacy. So where will the money for this new network of Big Brotherdom come from? I wonder...

    Re: Feds Want to Restrict Sale of Cold Medicine (none / 0) (#7)
    by desertswine on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:43 PM EST
    Well, thank god I can still get my cancer sticks and rotgut whiskey at my local Walgreen's.

    Re: Feds Want to Restrict Sale of Cold Medicine (none / 0) (#8)
    by txpublicdefender on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:43 PM EST
    A friend of mine was suffering from a cold a few weeks ago. She stopped by her local Walgreens to buy some NyQuil. She picked up three boxes and headed to the checkout line. When the cashier was scanning the items, an alarm went off. The cashier told her that she had exceeded the limit of how much cold medicine she could purchase (I don't know if this is a law or a store policy). Anyway, before my friend could respond, the cashier just asked her if it would be okay to ring up her purchase in two batches and run her credit card twice to get around the alarm. Of course, my friend was grateful, but we both got a good laugh out of the effectiveness of such a policy or law when it is so easy to get around.

    Re: Feds Want to Restrict Sale of Cold Medicine (none / 0) (#9)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:43 PM EST
    These new rules can get expensive, quickly. Evidently Washington state has a similar law: 1 box at a time, no more than 30 tabs a box, etc. A good friend of mine has a husband and 4 kids, and they live 30 minutes from the nearest drugstore. Last winter, when they all had colds or the flu at the same time (plus one has allergies all the time), they'd go through the one box limit every couple of days. So then one of the two adults has to go driving an hour to get more. Normally they'd drive that far only 3 times a month, not 3 times a week. That gas money and wear-and-tear adds up. My friend could only wince on thinking how many more people were exposed to her cold: she'd be sneezing and coughing like a banshee, but they needed a decongestant that works.

    Re: Feds Want to Restrict Sale of Cold Medicine (none / 0) (#10)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:43 PM EST
    A useless law. A big deal is made of the home meth labs and they are hazardous, but the bulk of the meth comes from Mexico. Trust me on this one, I do plenty of drug cases in a border state(AZ). The precursor chemicals can be bought in bulk down there and cops are much easier to bribe. Probably 98% comes from the big mexican labs.

    Re: Feds Want to Restrict Sale of Cold Medicine (none / 0) (#11)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:43 PM EST
    As a left leaning police officer who reads this site on a daily basis I wanted to add some thoughts to this conversation. I have seen the effects of meth labs and have been trained in how its made. It's simple to make with ingredients that are easily available at most Wal-Mart type stores. It's extremely dangerous to officers who have to respond to the house, car, storage shed or any place else that this stuff is being made. Our meth doesn't come from Mexico...it's homemade. It has damaging effects on the user....and the user's family. It's a problem that will only get worse. Correct me if I'm wrong but I believe the drug companies have come up with substitutes for the chemical in Sudafed that is used for the production of meth...why isn't that issue pushed more than making it more difficult for legal users to get the product?

    Re: Feds Want to Restrict Sale of Cold Medicine (none / 0) (#12)
    by roy on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:43 PM EST
    All I see today is the Federal government taking my money so they can go blow up innocent people halfway around the world with it and stick their long arm right up my butt here at home. You rightwingers are one to talk, you make Clinton's big government look damn near like a Libertarian state in comparison.
    I mostly agree with you. I'm probably more winged than the average TL poster, but I agree with about half the items on TL's agenda I linked above. I'm among those who feel betrayed by the Republicans abandoning "small government" now that federal power equals Republican power. Republicans and Democrats have the same definition of small government: less of the other side's policies.

    Re: Feds Want to Restrict Sale of Cold Medicine (none / 0) (#13)
    by jackl2400 on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:43 PM EST
    The "meth" crisis is more than just the angle on homebrewing from cold medications and the inability of the man to control that. It's also producing a circular firing squad with all of the majordomo Congressional supporters of prohibition. Here's what's going on. At the state and local level in many areas, meth is a real drug crisis. Unlike many prescription or illicit drugs, it's easy to manufacture with homebrew ingredients. Its users not only create toxic messes, but often seriously endanger their own health and welfare and those of their children. The arrests are skyrocketing, foster children abound, and the prisons are seeing another huge slug of user criminals, which they now can ill afford, just like crack cocaine in the '80s. Recently, a survey of the association of counties said that meth was a huge crisis and that resources had to be directed to meth and away from the pet programs of opposing marijuana (especially medimar) and prescription drug abuse (oxycontin, pain doctors). At the same time, the White House (ONDCP, drug czar Walters) is fixated on reducting use use of marijuana, especially among teens, as being the be all and end all of our $50B/yr federal policy. This is being done to cob up meaningless statistics meeting targets of reducing drug use to meet Congress' agency and program oversight targets. At the same time, federal drug task force grants are under attack, which the local LE folks see as needed to attack meth. They're ticked off that all of this money is going to reduce the least serious drug problem to get some silly statistics which prove nothing. Moreover, the feds have painted themselves into a box with their Chicken Little fearmongering about mj...it's going to be not credible to shift gears and suddenly start claiming meth is now public enemy #1. (My suggestion, cut your losses and stop digging a hole. Start telling the truth and legalize mj...then we can perhaps make some headway on the more lethal substitutes. Not that I expect this to happen de jure for 15 20 more years, though).

    Re: Feds Want to Restrict Sale of Cold Medicine (none / 0) (#14)
    by jimcee on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:43 PM EST
    There have been a lot of Meth labs busted near me and usually they're in the country being run by some middle-aged redneck. There has also been a rash of fertizer thefts here for use in the manufacture of Meth and soon these thefts will include psuedophrine. In essence just putting another item in the cart at the blackmarket. This just seems like a really frivilous idea. A fool's errand for law enforcement types, a waste of resources and really inconveniant for the average person with the sniffels. Overall the War On Drugs has been a excessive waste of resources, an impingement of civil rights and an all-out failure.

    Re: Feds Want to Restrict Sale of Cold Medicine (none / 0) (#15)
    by jimcee on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:43 PM EST
    err...I meant fertilizer, sorry.

    Re: Feds Want to Restrict Sale of Cold Medicine (none / 0) (#16)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:43 PM EST
    You used to be able to count on Fienstein to be sensible and a left leaning to center democrat. She seems to be getting waaaay off center and going to the right. She has lost my vote (unless they put up a total whackjob against her...which the California Republicans usually do). She might as well switch parties as she works for Bushco more and more.

    Re: Feds Want to Restrict Sale of Cold Medicine (none / 0) (#18)
    by wg on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:44 PM EST
    the drug appears to be a serious societal problem, so I don't see a problem with limiting precursor sales. However, some other methods used to fight it are problematic. For example, elaborate procedures are used to "detoxify" illegal labs. There is no objective reason for that level of paranoia. Any university chemistry lab is a far more dangerous place and still thousands of students use them every day. The whole purpose here seems to be to enrich owners of decontamination services which are usually retired cops or their relatives. The cost which can be outrageous is usually charged to offenders. Hit a poor man that bad, and this is predominantly poor man epidemic and you virtually guarantee he will continue breaking the law for the rest of his life.

    Re: Feds Want to Restrict Sale of Cold Medicine (none / 0) (#19)
    by kdog on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:44 PM EST
    In other words, Feds want to expand tyranny. I'm getting so sick of our once great nation becoming more and more of a "nanny state". We wax poetic poetic about "freedom", but so many of us (especially our govt.) seem to have no idea what it means.

    "Hit a poor man that bad, and this is predominantly poor man epidemic and you virtually guarantee he will continue breaking the law for the rest of his life." Luckily for the human race many "poor men" choose not to subscribe to this philosophy. Regardless, I think the idea is dumb as well. A quick google search indicates that by far the bulk of meth production labs (both Mexican and US) are operating at capacities far beyond that which your local Walgreens can supply. These big labs get their precurser chemicals in bulk directly from the manufacturers or their distributors. And, if US production is hindered, Mexican labs would likely easily ramp up their production.

    Re: Feds Want to Restrict Sale of Cold Medicine (none / 0) (#21)
    by kdog on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:44 PM EST
    Absolutely right sarc...as long as demand exists, the supply side will always sort out satisfying the demand.

    fwiw, Asia is also experiencing a huge meth problem - labs in China and India produce piles of the stuff.

    Re: Feds Want to Restrict Sale of Cold Medicine (none / 0) (#23)
    by Patrick on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:44 PM EST
    TL says,
    because the drug can be used (albeit not easily) to manufacture methamphetamine.
    Absolutely false statement. It's so easy the cook just has to collect enough pills, which is called "Smurfing", and add them to the recipe. That's it. Nothing more is required. Sometimes they soak them and remove the ephedrine in a solution, but it is not necessary to do this step.
    but the bulk of the meth comes from Mexico. Trust me on this one, I do plenty of drug cases in a border state(AZ). The precursor chemicals can be bought in bulk down there and cops are much easier to bribe. Probably 98% comes from the big mexican labs.
    I love the "trust me" part, but perhaps that is true of border Arizona, but where I work, in No California( Also a border state), the bulk of meth comes from Mexican national cooks, but the cooks are done in the U.S., not Mexico. California is considered a source state for methamphetamine throught the U.S. Jackl, I was with you right up to the point where you said legalize MJ. The gov't gets enough money to enforce all of its drug policies. Jimcee, Fertilizer to make meth? What type of fertilizer? That's a new one to me, I'd like to hear more on that. Sarc, Actually you are right and wrong. The super labs do use more than a local pharmacy can usually support, but smaller cooks, ounce and pound levels are using those pharmacys as their source and those little "Beavis and Butthead" labs are the ones that cause the lion's share of the problems. Mexican super labs are usually done in the middle of nowhere, and finished within a day or so of when they are set up. Without going into too much detail they usually get their ephedrine through diversion,(the theft of bulk cold medications from wherehouses). Used to be you could purchase raw ephedrine directly from China, but now that is monitored too closely. It's the evolution of drug dealers. They try new techniques until cops figure it out then they adjust. I think it's a good idea for pharmacys to keep ephedrine behind the counter and limit its sale voluntarily. Forcing them to do it under the law is not necessarily something I support fully.

    Patrick, By "problems" from Beavis and Butthead labs, do you mean danger from explosions and the like? That sounds logical. My point was that the problem of the supply of meth won't be significantly impacted by the loss of the "B&B" labs, although that's more a gut feeling that anything else - I couldn't get any hard numbers on the relative size of B&B production to that of the big labs. My other question is regarding the enforcement of the plan at the pharmacy level - are Walgreen's computers tied into Savon's tied into Alberstons, etc.?

    Re: Feds Want to Restrict Sale of Cold Medicine (none / 0) (#26)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:44 PM EST
    Tracking local purchases for a federal database is another attempt to collate personal medical and indentity information at the federal level. Though I oppose meth and rue the harm it causes, the solution has to remain on the manufacture side. Feinstein fronts another elite 'Why would anyone mind?' law -- her hallmark. How's all that money her husband is making off Bush's war? Did they figure out how to wash off the bloodm yet? It makes a mess of her pearled purse.

    Re: Feds Want to Restrict Sale of Cold Medicine (none / 0) (#27)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:44 PM EST
    People on this board seem to doubt my statement that most of the meth comes from Mexico. Maybe it is different in places like N.Cal or Oregon, but in AZ, most of the meth busts involving any significant weight can be traced to Mexico (through Phoenix and Tucson). Which is not to say that home labs aren't a problem. They are incredibly toxic (and combustible). But the laws on cold medications are really useless. Unless congress really wants to beef up border security, we're still going to see craploads of meth. Of course, that won't happen because the republicans are in charge and their corporate backers need the cheap labor streaming across the border.

    Re: Feds Want to Restrict Sale of Cold Medicine (none / 0) (#28)
    by Patrick on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:44 PM EST
    Sarcastic, No, those dangers are inherent to all, perhaps more so to a bathroom lab due to their makeshift manner. In my experience B&B labs are more likely to be in a residence, more likely to expose children and other innocents, more likely to be disposed of down a drain or into a water source, etc, more likely to be done improperly which can cause the manufacture of white phosphorous or phosphine (IIRC) gas. I once saw a cook being done on a coleman gas stove!!!!! Mexican national super labs (Usually 6 22-liter reaction vessels or more) are more likely to be found in remote settings, forests, deserts, abandoned property etc, they usually use real glassware (Stolen) and relatively pure chemicals, and they don't usually dispose of the waste they leave it at the site once it(The site) is abandoned. Of course there are exceptions, and someone else's experience may be different from mine. DA, Thanks, I haven't heard of fertilizer thefts for that, but it makes sense now. I didn't know it was useable after it was made into fertilizer. Look for lots of peeled car batteries too.

    Re: Feds Want to Restrict Sale of Cold Medicine (none / 0) (#29)
    by Patrick on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:44 PM EST
    DA, P.S. The nazi method is way more popular back east than out here. At least that's what I hear. I think there's been one or two nazi labs in my county in the past couple years, and probably 60-120 red P/HI labs.