Pseudoephedrine debate increases friction between public protection and personal liberty

02/06/2012 07:40 AM

Increasing instances of methamphetamine addiction, arrests and homemade labs has prompted some lawmakers to push for requiring Kentuckians who use cold medicine with pseudoephedrine to get prescriptions.

A coalition of drug makers and free market advocates, such as Jim Waters of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions calls that a “sledgehammer to an ant approach.”

They are supporting legislation that would require prescriptions only for people who have prior meth-related convictions.

“We know we have a meth problem … The current MethCheck system has actually helped law enforcement officers find more of these labs,” Waters said of the registry to keep track of pseuoephedrine purchases (4:40 of the interview). “It is extremely naive to say that we just had an increase in the number of labs. No, we had an increase in the labs found by officers.”

But advocates for the legislation requiring prescriptions for medicine containing pseudoephedrine — except for liquid-gel cap format — say the partial approach wont stop “smurfers” in which meth-makers pay others to purchase cold medicine with pseudoephedrine for them.

“There’s a lot of people who have been smurfing, and they tend to be the same people,” Waters said. “We’ve got about 5,500 people already in the system.”

Sen. Tom Jensen, R-London and the Senate Judiciary Committee, pointed to evidence from states like Oregon and Mississippi in which a prescription-only approach cut down on meth making.

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