Pubdate: Sat, 16 Jul 2005
Source: Statesman Journal (Salem, OR)
Copyright: 2005 Statesman Journal
Author: Peter Wong
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Restrictions On Cold Medicine Are An Issue Of Contention

Oregon lawmakers soon will decide whether to spend $7 million and
restrict some cold medications in the fight against

House and Senate budget panels acted Thursday and Friday to recommend
increased spending on investigations, prosecutions of drug-makers and
treatment of addicts to the illegal stimulant.

They also cleared two bills to increase penalties against drug-makers,
particularly if children or disabled or elderly people are present at
homes where the drug is produced.

The actions were a show of bipartisan support in a session otherwise
marked by partisan crossfire between the Democratic majority in the
Senate and the Republican majority in the House.

But the effort still could be derailed by opposition to a provision
requiring prescriptions for all medications containing
pseudoephedrine, a decongestant that can be extracted to make

"I'd like to be honest and not count this as a victory before it's
there," said Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem. "But this
restriction is the only thing we are getting some pressure on."

Pharmaceutical manufacturers failed to persuade lawmakers on the
judiciary committees, which approved the bills on June 23.

Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, changed his mind in the other
direction when law-enforcement officials told him that as much as 75
percent of the medications end up in hands other than sufferers of
colds and allergies.

"It is an inconvenience that many people are going to be unhappy with,
and I am unhappy with," said Richardson, who led a House budget
subcommittee that approved the spending Friday.

"But the methamphetamine epidemic is so widespread and the use of
pseudoephedrine to make it is so pervasive that this is something we
just have to do."

Oregon would be the first state to require prescriptions. Already,
Oregon, as well as other states, requires that the medications be
behind pharmacy counters. Pending legislation in Congress would block
states from going as far as Oregon proposes.

"My immediate concern is the federal legislation, which has a good
chance of passing, to pre-empt state law," Gov. Ted Kulongoski said
Friday. "I have urged our congressional delegation to hold tight. I
think the state should have a better program than the federal
government has."

Kulongoski has requested the Board of Pharmacy to extend
behind-the-counter placement to liquid and gelatin-capsule medications
containing pseudoephedrine. The requirement now applies to hard tablets.

Police agencies estimate that home-grown laboratories account for
about a third of methamphetamine production and that Mexican cartels
supply the rest.

Rep. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, said he initially thought the
restriction was bad.

He said that nobody at a meeting this week in Corvallis liked the

"My question to those opposed, not just to putting medications behind
the counter but requiring prescriptions for them was: What do we do?"
Boquist said. "Of the 25 people in the room, there was not one answer."

Boquist said it would be worth it if it cuts into the growing number
of property crimes linked to methamphetamine.

Rep. Gary Hansen, D-Portland, said the package restores some of the
money cut from drug treatment, but not enough.

"We know that drug courts do not work without the availability of drug
treatment," he said. "What we do not want is for someone to commit a
crime and be incarcerated before he gets treatment."

Courtney said the Legislative Emergency Board, which will get $2.5
million for drug courts, may have to set aside more for treatment.

What's next

The House and Senate are the next stops for House Bill 2485 and Senate
Bill 907, which increase penalties against makers of methamphetamine
and require prescriptions for medications containing pseudoephedrine.
The chambers also will vote on $7.1 million for added investigations,
prosecutions and treatment. Spending

Separate Senate and House bills propose $7.1 million in added spending
against methamphetamine, as follows:

INVESTIGATION: $550,087 for Department of Justice to add two lawyers
and an investigator to help district attorneys and police; $88,143 for
Oregon State Police to do lab work.

PROSECUTION: $1,479,866 for Department of Corrections to house more
inmates; $900,000 for prison drug-treatment programs in Baker City and
Wilsonville; $450,000 for Public Defense Services Commission for legal

DRUG COURTS: $2.5 million for grants to counties to expand drug
courts, which require treatment as alternative to jail; $942,679 for
four counties, including Marion County, to replace expiring federal
grants for drug courts; $158,054 for Criminal Justice Commission to
oversee grants.

OTHER: $40,000 for Department of Agriculture to certify nontoxic dyes
for additives to anhydrous ammonia.
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