OPINION: Drug companies lose key battle over the “new moonshine”

By Sid Salter

The Legislature’s rather decisive vote to strike a blow at the supply of pseudoephedrine available in Mississippi for home meth labs represents a huge victory for state lawmen and a huge loss for drug companies and their lobbyists.
Law enforcement agencies don’t really have the political clout or the financial resources to lobby in the classic sense – nor should they have to engage in that nonsense.

New moonshine?
Crystal methamphetamine is the new moonshine in Mississippi. It’s relatively easy to make, the precursors are cheap and readily available at a lot of locations in even the smallest Mississippi towns and the demand for the drug is high.
Just as poor Mississippians got into the whiskey still business during hard times in the state’s past, poor Mississippians are also making meth not simply for consumption themselves but for retail opportunities as well.
The state’s child advocates and law enforcement community will tell you quickly – as they told legislators last week – that where you find meth manufacture and consumption, you will also find child abuse, child molestation, child neglect, prostitution and a host of other societal evils.
Meth is now officially Mississippi’s top drug problem – surpassing even powder and crack cocaine, according to Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics Director Marshall Fisher.
Fisher – with the backing of the Mississippi Independent Pharmacies Association, Association of Mississippi Police Chiefs, Mississippi Sheriffs Association, Mississippi District Attorneys Association and the Mississippi State Medical Association – want the Legislature to change state law to make pseudoephedrine a Schedule III drug – which would require a prescription.
In 2006, Oregon passed such a law and Oregon’s meth lab seizures dropped by 96 percent, Fisher said. Mississippi’s law enforcement community believes that “scheduling” pseudoephed–rine would have the same impact here.
That’s why the Legislature’s apparent decision to make over the counter cold remedy medications containing pseudoephedrine prescription–only drugs is such a huge victory for drug enforcement in this state.
The effort centers on making pseudoephedrine a prescription drug. Pseudoephedrine is a decongestant found in over–the–counter cold remedies. While many household chemicals can be used in the production of meth, Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics Director Marshall Fisher said the one ingredient necessary to make meth is pseudoephedrine.

Lobbyists spend
Drug companies spent $217, 825 in campaign contributions to Mississippi state politicians in the 2007 elections – $96,525 in the Senate and $77, 900 in the House alone.
Those drug companies and their lobbyists usually have their way with the Mississippi Legislature. Watching those lobbyists see the Legislature do the right thing on this legislation was encouraging.
Will it stop the manufacture and consumption of crystal meth in Mississippi? No. But it seriously will slow it down.
But if surrounding states follow suit, “the new moonshine” may begin to lose the stranglehold it has had on so many Mississippians.

Contact Sid Salter, Perspective editor at the Clarion-Ledger at (601) 961–7084 or e–mail ssalter@clarionledger.com.