Keep ‘ice’ ingredients behind store counters
The Senate has approved a measure to restrict the sale of cold medicines containing an ingredient used to make meth.
A proposal to restrict the sale of cold medicines with an ingredient used to make methamphetamine has won Senate passage and should be approved by the House this week. Attached to the controversial USA Patriot Act, the provision would toughen restrictions in Hawaii, plagued with the second-highest admission rate for treatment of meth or amphetamine abuse.
The methamphetamine provision is among several included in the Patriot Act that don't directly relate to terrorism. The bill, aimed mainly at extending 16 antiterrorism provisions that are due to expire Friday, gained the Senate's 89-10 approval after President Bush accepted modest curbs on the government's power to investigate suspects. Senator Akaka voted against the bill, saying it "did not go far enough to correct the flaws." Senator Inouye did not cast a vote.
The bill would make it more difficult for illicit meth labs to operate by requiring drugstores to sell Sudafed, Claritin D and other nonprescription medicines containing pseudoephedrine -- an essential meth ingredient -- only from behind the counter.
Last year's Legislature enacted lesser requirements, limiting consumers to buying no more than three packages or nine grams -- about 300 pills -- in a single transaction. The Senate bill would limit them to 120 pills a day or 300 per month, and they would be required to show photo identification and sign a logbook.
States that have placed restrictions on sales of medicines containing pseudoephedrine have experienced a rise in stimulants coming from Mexican cartels. The Senate bill would address that problem by providing nearly $100 million for law enforcement, including assistance in coordinating efforts with Mexico and other foreign governments to track distribution of the ingredient.
Only hours before the Senate vote, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that Hawaii trailed only Oregon from 1993 to 2003 in meth users admitted to substance abuse clinics. During that period, Hawaii's yearly "ice" admission rate skyrocketed from 52 to 241 per 100,000 population, while the national rate rose from 13 to 56 admissions per 100,000.
According to experts, meth has become epidemic partly because it is easy to make in illegal makeshift labs and much cheaper than other illicit drugs.
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