Stronger Anti-Meth Bill Revised for C-Stores

Exception made for stores without pharmacy

Published in CSP Daily News

WASHINGTON Federal lawmakers seeking to restrict over-the-counter access to cold medicines used to make methamphetamine presented a revised bill Tuesday that would soften the impact on some retailers that lack a pharmacy, reported the Associated Press.

The measure originally required all stores to sell Sudafed, Nyquil and other medicines containing pseudoephedrine only from behind the pharmacy counter. In makeshift labs across the country, the ingredient is extracted and used to cook meth.

Pressed by retailers concerned about [image-nocss] losing sales, lawmakers said they carved out an exception for stores without a pharmacist on duty, such as convenience stores and some grocery chains. Under the new version, states have the option of working with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to license certain employees who are not pharmacists to sell the medicines.

Consumers would have to show a photo ID, sign a log and be limited to 7.5 gramsabout 250 30-milligram pillsin a 30-day period. Computer tracking would prevent customers from exceeding the limit at other stores.

One of the things we wanted to do is make certain legitimate consumers who have allergy or other problems can have access to the cold medicines they need, said Senator Jim Talent (R-Mo.), who sponsored the bill with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to consider the legislation today, which is modeled after the successful Oklahoma law that resulted in an immediate 80% drop in meth labs seized, the senators announced.

There has been a tremendous shift in momentum for this legislation since Senator Feinstein and I first introduced it, Talent said. We have always had the strong support of law enforcement, and now we are joined by a diverse group of industry leaders, including major retailers, some of whom since the introduction of our bill have taken voluntarily steps to move products with pseudoephedrine behind the counter. Our enhanced legislation would enact the toughest standard in the country to cut off the meth cooks from the ingredient they need to make this deadly drug.

Senators Talent and Feinstein first introduced the Combat Meth Act in January 2005. Since then, they have worked with law enforcement, retailers and consumers to develop strengthened legislation that continues to place strict limitations on pseudoephedrine products while ensuring that legitimate consumers continue to have access to cold medicines.

The strengthened bill:

Moves cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine behind the counter. Amends the Controlled Substances Act to appropriately limit the sale of medicines containing pseudoephedrine by placing them behind the counter and sets a limit on how much of such medicines one person can buy in a month7.5 grams. Requires signature and identification for purchases. The Attorney General will develop regulations to ensure uniformity. Creates alternate procedures for stores without pharmacies and stores in rural areas. The DEA and states will develop regulations to continue to allow cold medicine to be sold at retail stores without pharmacies and in rural areas (but which meet appropriate security criteria), consistent with the intent of the bill to limit access to pseudoephedrine. Creates an airport exemption. Allows retail facilities located within a commercial airport to sell cold medicine with pseudoephedrine (in liquid form or gel caps) in single packages containing no more than 360 milligrams in a 24-hour period and requires them to follow the log book procedures established by the bill. Sets a national standard, but allows states to determine appropriate penalties. Creates a national Meth treatment center to research effective treatments for Meth abuse. Authorizes $43 million for enforcement, training and research into treatment. This includes $25 million for local law enforcement and federal prosecutors to bring meth manufacturers and dealers to justice, $3 million for meth treatment and research, $5 million to help children who have been affected by meth and $10 million for precursor monitoring grants.

Effective date: Cold medicines containing only pseudoephedrine must be moved behind the counter within 90 days of enactment. Those medicines with pseudoephedrine and other ingredients must be moved by January 1, 2007.

Following enactment of the Oklahoma law last year, seven other states have followed suit with Schedule V regulations for pseudoephedrine: Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

A number of major retailers have also taken voluntary action to limit access to cold medicine containing pseudoephedrine: Target, Wal-Mart, Albertsons, Rite-Aid, Walgreens, CVS, K-Mart, Shopko, Longs Drugs, Safeway and Kroger.

The following individuals, organizations and companies support the legislation: Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies, Drugstore.com, Fertilizer Institute, Food Marketing Institute (FMI), Healthcare Distribution Management Association, Missouri Governor Matt Blunt, Missouri Highway Patrol, National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) and National Alliance of State Drug Enforcement Agencies.