Grappling with Stronger Meth Abuse Laws

Another community in the state of Missouri recently enacted an ordinance requiring a prescription to obtain products containing pseudoephedrine. The city of Union, Missouri, now joins neighboring Washington in requiring a prescription for the drug.

A bill had been introduced in the Missouri legislature earlier this year (SB 160) that would have changed pseudoephedrine to a Schedule III medication requiring a prescription, though no action was taken before the legislature adjourned. The California State Senate passed a bill (SB 484) requiring a prescription for the drug in June, modeled after Oregon's anti-methamphetamine law that took effect in 2006.

Oregon has seen a drop in both methamphetamine-related arrests and the number of methamphetamine labs since enacting its pseudoephedrine prescription law, and numerous state organizations-including the Oregon State Sheriffs Association, the Oregon District Attorneys Association, and the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police-expressed support for the California measure as a "pure prevention solution" to the problem of methamphetamine abuse.

As more and more states and localities grapple with the problem of methamphetamine abuse, opinion continues to be divided on the merits of making it a prescription-only drug. The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) does not support requiring a prescription for medicines containing pseudoephedrine, noting that current behind-the-counter restrictions have made a significant impact in the reduction of meth labs. CHPA supports additional measures to confront the problem, such as retailers' use of electronic sales tracking systems to help ensure compliance with existing federal law, as well as a multistate, unified electronic tracking database system to crack down on "smurfing," a practice whereby criminals travel to multiple stores to obtain small quantities of the drug at each location.

At the federal level, proposed laws are pending in both the House and the Senate to strengthen the previous federal mandate by requiring retailers of the products to verify that they have trained their staff in the requirements of the federal Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act that went into effect in 2006.

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