Meth ingredient needs national limits
Congress is considering legislation to restrict the sale of cold medicines with an ingredient used to produce methamphetamine.
RESTRICTION on the sale of cold medicines that can be used to produce methamphetamine is receiving bipartisan support in Congress, but its attachment to the controversial USA Patriot Act may at least delay its enactment. The bill would toughen restrictions in Hawaii but would be no cure-all to the crystal meth epidemic.
This year's Legislature enacted requirements that limit consumers to buying no more than three packages or nine grams -- about 300 pills -- in a single transaction. The congressional proposal would limit purchases to one package a day or three packages a month.
The federal legislation would require that Sudafed, Claritin D and other medicines containing pseudoephedrine be kept under lock and key in stores. Hawaii's weaker law allows stores to keep the medicines in plain view of a store clerk, behind the counter or in view of a security camera.
Hawaii, where 15 crystal meth labs were shut down last year and 10 more during the first four months of this year, is among 34 states that have restrictions in sales of medicines containing pseudoephedrine. Oregon's law is the strictest, requiring a doctor's prescription in order to buy such medicines. The federal bill is patterned after an Oklahoma law that has been effective in reducing the number of meth labs.
Nationwide limits would hinder meth manufacturers from buying the medicines in bulk in a state with no restrictions and crossing state lines to their labs. Illegal operations could bring them to Hawaii from the mainland.
Even if a federal law were to shut down all the meth labs in the country, "ice" would continue to plague Hawaii and the the rest of the country. Eighty percent of the meth illegally marketed in the United States is smuggled from international superlabs -- 65 percent from Mexico, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
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