City and county officials in Clovis and Portales passed an ordinance last week aimed at curbing production of methamphetamine. Unfortunately, the law misses its target. It will inconvenience sick people, can send retail-store owners to jail, and gives government a little better look into our private lives, but, in the end, provides no more useful tools for police or prosecutors hoping to stop proliferation of the illegal drug.
The law limits the display and sale of cold and sinus medication that can be used to manufacture meth. Anyone purchasing the powder or hard-pill form of pseudoephedrine products must first register with law enforcement, via the retail store where the product is purchased.
Retailers who fail to comply face up to 90 days in jail and a $300 fine.
The intent, according to promoters, is to discourage meth cooks from purchasing the ingredients they need for production of the addictive drug. The reality is there are many avenues through which to acquire those ingredients and the new ordinance makes no attempt to prevent their purchase anyway, only to inconvenience the buyer.
Even if a meth cook travels to numerous stores, purchases the maximum number of pills allowed by the ordinance — 100 — at each location and registers truthfully every time, the information will not be enough to give law-enforcement the right to search the cook’s property, according to District Attorney Matt Chandler, who has championed the ordinance for months.
The registration information might allow police to stake out a suspect’s home and watch for illegal drug activity. But Curry County Sheriff Roger Hatcher told us that law-enforcement officials already know most of the suspected meth-production facilities in the region because neighbors point them out. Police still need evidence of illegal activity before they can search a place.
We understand the concerns about the use of methamphetamine. Addicts can do considerable harm to themselves and others, and the drug can be easily acquired at little cost.
But this law doesn’t have a chance of reducing the number of meth labs in the region, though we don’t have many now (about a dozen have been discovered in the past year, according to the district attorney’s office).
The law will score political points for Chandler and the majority of our elected city and county officials who have now shown voters that they’re willing to “do something” to stop illicit drug use.
It will create additional burdens on retail store owners and employees who must put these cold and allergy pills behind counters and document those who wish to purchase them.
It may add to the crime of identity theft since any number of retail store clerks and law enforcement officials will have access to personal information not currently required for most purchases.
It won’t do anything to stop the manufacture or distribution of methamphetamine — only education can ultimately achieve that goal.
We applaud Clovis City Commissioners Randy Crowder and Isidro Garcia — the only local officials voting “no” — for recognizing the law’s shortcomings. We’re disappointed the others fell for the political hype.