There’s been a lot of buzz lately about a bill in the state legislature to make Sudafed a prescription drug. Well, more specifically, any drug that contains the ingredient pseudoephedrine. In addition to being an incredibly effective drug in combatting allergies, it unfortunately also happens to be the most important ingredient in the making of a terrible narcotic — methamphetamines, otherwise known as meth, or crystal meth.
Apparently, makers of meth can use over the counter drugs with pseudoephedrine in them, combined with several other easily accessible chemicals and materials, to quickly whip up a batch of this nasty concoction. Through a process known as “smurfing” the makers or their hired errand runners will go from store to store picking up supplies. Despite valiant efforts by law enforcement and a large database, this process can still be very difficult to stop.
Further complicating the situation is the fact that the making of meth through the combination of these chemicals can be extremely dangerous and has led to many “meth lab” explosions, as well as injuries and deaths.
Because the manufacture of meth has become so rampant in Kentucky, many lawmakers believe they can stop or slow the spread of it by making drugs containing pseudoephedrine available by prescription only. Thus, Senate Bill 50 would do just that.
While I agree with lawmakers and law enforcement that something needs to be done about this situation, I disagree that the answer to the problem is to make it harder and more expensive for law abiding Kentuckians to obtain a common remedy that is very effective in fighting allergies.
Given the fact that Kentucky already has a huge problem with pill mills, corrupt doctors will simply add these drugs to the list of pills they prescribe. I believe this bill will not solve the problem, but rather cause a shift in the supply chain.
In the meantime, it will cost Kentuckians more by forcing them to see their doctor before they can get the effective drugs for the allergies all too common to the Ohio Valley. You may now have to miss work and pay a doctor’s visit co-pay in addition to the cost of the drug itself, just to get sinus relief for yourself or your children. Meanwhile, the scourge of meth will most likely continue.
Laws like this tend to make criminals out of law-abiding citizens by accident, and fail to stop the real crime. For instance, what happens if you go on vacation to another state where the drug is available over the counter, come down with a sinus infection and pick up a box? When you come back home to Kentucky, are you guilty of possession if you don’t have a prescription? These are the kind of accidental situations that have to be worked out, and they have nothing to do with solving the meth problem.
There is an alternative however. Rep. Brent Yonts (D-Greenville) has put forth a compromise bill that may just solve the problem. We currently have to show ID to purchase any drug containing pseudoephedrine. Under Yonts’ legislation, nothing would change for law-abiding citizens. However, anyone who has been convicted of a meth-related crime would have to have a prescription making it much harder for them to access their supply.
Fighting meth doesn’t have to mean limiting freedom. I believe this approach is the best compromise to help law enforcement more effectively fight a terrible problem facing Kentucky, while at the same time maintaining the balance of liberty in our state.
Leland Conway is co-founder and executive editor of www.conservativeedge.com and host of the Pulse of Lexington on News Radio 630 WLAP. He can be reached for comment at Leland@conservativeedge.com.