Pubdate: Wed, 13 Apr 2005
Source: Montgomery Advertiser (AL)
Copyright: 2005 The Advertiser Co.
Note: Letters from the newspaper's circulation area receive publishing priority
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Alabamians suffering from colds might find it a bit less convenient to 
treat their symptoms if a bill pending in the Legislature is enacted, but 
that inconvenience would be well justified. The measure would be an 
important step in curbing what has become arguably the state's worst 
problem drug -- methamphetamine, often called meth or crystal meth.

The drug is made in part from a decongestant found in several commonly used 
over-the-counter cold medications -- pseudoephedrine. By restricting the 
ease with which these can be obtained -- and the quantity allowed at each 
purchase -- it is hoped that the meth problem in Alabama can be curbed.

Under the bill by Rep. Frank McDaniel, D- Albertville, cold medications in 
which pseudoephedrine is the only active ingredient would remain available 
for sale, but stores would have to keep them behind their counters or in 
locked display cases. Products in which this is among the active 
ingredients would have to be kept behind counters, in locked display cases 
or in areas under constant video surveillance. Customers would have to 
present identification and sign for their purchases, which would be limited 
to three packages.

That may seem extreme, but it reflects the dangers meth presents in 
Alabama. It is unlike other illegal drugs, such as cocaine, in that it is 
not imported into the state and is not sold through a network of dealers. 
There is no Colombian cartel of meth makers.

Instead, ingredients such as cold tablets, iodine, lye and matches -- all 
easily obtained at almost any store -- are cooked in homes or garages to 
produce a highly addictive and dangerous drug.

To its credit, the Alabama Retail Association, which usually opposes 
restrictions on retailers, is supporting the bill. That's a responsible 
stance. The bill is not unfair to stores or to customers, who can still buy 
medications to treat their colds. However, by halting the sale of large 
amounts of these medications, some progress should be made in curbing the 
meth epidemic.

The problem is not confined to Alabama. The legislatures of Tennessee, 
Mississippi, Kentucky and Missouri have passed similar bills this year.

"You can go to Wal-Mart or a country convenience stores to make crystal 
meth," said Todd Sasser, a former meth maker who now operates a drug 
rehabilitation program in Opp.

This bill will make it harder to do so. It deserves passage.
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