EDITORIAL: Crystal meth control

By NEMS Daily Journal

The Legislature’s passage and Gov. Barbour’s promise to sign a bill requiring prescriptions for cold medicines with pseudoephedrine should help Mississippi dramatically reduce the production, use and distribution of crystal methamphetamine – a highly addictive stimulant drug that is illegal and almost epidemic in our state and many others.
Pseudoephedrine is the primary ingredient for methamphetamine.
The bill in effect returns required prescription status to pseudoephedrine drugs sold over the counter under many brand names (see the insert in this editorial).
Mississippi’s law is modeled on an Oregon anti-meth law that’s been in effect since July 1, 2006, and which is credited with dramatically reducing manufacture, sale and use of crystal meth in that Pacific Coast state. The Wall Street Journal reported in October that since 2006 meth-related arrests in Oregon have dropped 43 percent.
Mississippi law already restricts the amount of cold pills people may buy, but offenders get around that by buying at multiple outlets, a process called “smurfing.”
Almost 600 crystal-meth operations were destroyed and 981 people arrested in Mississippi in 2009, involving crystal meth.
The bill had the strong backing of law enforcement statewide and from many pharmacists.
The law, once implemented, will make ingredients for crystal meth much harder to obtain in our state because of the prescription requirement.
By requiring prescriptions for all cold medicines with pseudoephedrine, Oregon’s law became a model of third-party regulation: the state using pharmacists (third parties) to enforce anti-narcotic laws.
Some pharmacists are concerned about an increased risk of armed theft by meth crooks, and we hope the state pays close attention to the frequency of those incidents. Other steps might be needed.
The best solution arguably is nationwide federal adoption of the Oregon and/or Mississippi laws to make difficulty of availability more uniform. A federal law would not ban the drug, which has been useful for decades, but it would limit legal availability nationwide to people deemed in medical need.