Pubdate: Tue, 30 Aug 2005
Source: Asheville Citizen-Times (NC)
Copyright: 2005 Asheville Citizen-Times
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Here's hoping this editorial is obsolete by the time you're reading it. Its 
purpose is to urge state lawmakers to pass legislation restricting 
over-the-counter sales of pseudoephedrine, a decongestant used to 
manufacture methamphetamine.

There's a chance the N.C. House took up the issue Monday night after this 
editorial was written. The Senate has already approved new restrictions 
that would put all tablets containing pseudoephedrine, such as Sudafed and 
Claritin, behind the pharmacist's counter, would require customers to show 
photo identification to buy them and would restrict purchases to nine grams 
a month without a prescription.

If the House acted Monday night, depending on what action it took, the new 
law could be ready for the governor's signature by this morning. It is 
imperative, not only that the House take up the legislation before it 
adjourns, but that it pass a law similar to the Senate version, which state 
Attorney General Roy Cooper has championed for months.

"It's critical that they act before they go home," Cooper said in a 
telephone interview Monday. "We cannot wait another year of pulling these 
kids out of meth houses and watching as this drug destroys communities."

Cooper said Monday that he was encouraged that legislation similar to the 
Senate version would win approval. The Senate version is similar to an 
Oklahoma law that's been in place for about a year.

"That Oklahoma model, that's what's working," Cooper said.

Oklahoma had one of the worst meth problems in the nation, but since 
enacting legislation similar to the bill approved by the Senate, Oklahoma 
has seen an 80 percent drop in meth production.

Some House members originally expressed concern about restricting the sale 
of cold remedies to legitimate users, but over the last few months Cooper 
has worked hard to help lawmakers understand the implications of continuing 
to allow virtually unrestricted access to pseudoephedrine. Cooper said gel 
caps and liquids containing pseudoephedrine have not been used to 
manufacture meth in North Carolina and are not covered by the restriction. 
That means cold and allergy sufferers would still have unlimited access to 
the drug in those forms.

Meth is a highly addictive drug that leads to psychotic or violent behavior 
and to brain damage. It's cheap to produce, but the production results in 
pounds of toxic waste for every pound of drug. Obviously, the meth labs 
where the drug is produced are a serious threat to public health and 
safety. As of July, state law enforcement officers had busted more than 200 
labs, with Western North Carolina having more than its share. Children are 
found living in about 25 percent of homes where meth labs are discovered. 
These children often have serious physical and emotional problems as a 
result of their exposure to meth.

Knowing all of this, it would be incredibly irresponsible for state 
lawmakers to go home for the year without acting on legislation that has 
proven to reduce this scourge by 80 percent in Oklahoma. As we said 
earlier, here's hoping they already have.
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