By Kevin Wilson: PNT Managing Editor
Federal legislation is in the works that could tightly regulate the sale of ingredients used in the production of methamphetamines. However, similar measures on the state, county and city level could be in place well before a national law takes hold.
U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., cosponsored on Wednesday the Combat Meth Act of 2005, which aims to eradicate the production and distribution of methamphetamines, largely by eliminating the opportunity to purchase pseudoephedrine.
If passed, the act would require that pseudoephedrine be sold only by a pharmacist or pharmacy technician, and would limit buyers to 7.5 grams of products containing the drug in a 30-day period. An average cold medicine pill contains 30 milligrams of psuedoephedrine, about 1/250th of the limit.
“We are working in cooperation with the drug industry to ensure that while there are more obstacles in the way for potential producers, cold medicines will remain over-the-counter drugs,” Domenici said in a statement. “In our efforts to fight the drug war, we do not want to inadvertently hurt the drug industry and businesses.”
Dick Haverland of C.J.’s Pill Box in Portales said that the federal regulation would be a step in the right direction, but most pharmacists in the area are already quite cautious of the products they sell. Haverland said he and other pharmacists are now waiting on word from the New Mexico Board of Pharmacists to move items containing pseudoephedrine behind the counter.
“Most pharmacists know that’s used to make methamphetamines and everybody watches for any kind of (large) quantity,” Haverland said. “It would be a good law nationally, but the law has been addressed in New Mexico.”
Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler, who is planning a new series of rules to combat meth production on a local level, praised the effort by the Senate.
“That’s a wonderful step to eliminating, or at least creating a great obstacle to the manufacturing of methamphetamines,” Chandler said. “It’s something that can only be done with an act of Congress. I applaud the efforts of the bill and hope it passes.”
Chandler added that he is currently planning to do more on the local level. In four July public meetings in the eastern New Mexico area — the Roosevelt and Curry county commission meetings, and the city meetings for Portales and Clovis — Chandler said he plans to introduce a plan that will restrict sales of such medications to three. In addition, the medications will be behind the counter and buyers will be required to provide photo identification.
Chandler said the idea is similar to legislation that helped eliminate 80 percent of meth labs in Oklahoma. Earlier this year, Chandler’s office created Meth Watch. He said that the tip line (762-METH) gets about five calls per week (including two Portales-based calls on Wednesday) from businesses reporting large purchases of chemicals used to produce the drug.
“I think (federal legislation is) a bigger step,” Chandler said, “but the steps of Meth Watch and the ordinance are the only things we can do at this level.”