NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 24, 2006

When Texas lawmakers decided to crack down on illegal methamphetamine production eight months ago, they thought to go to the source. Limiting the sale of common cold and allergy medicines that contained an ingredient also used to make meth seemed the right thing to do, says the Dallas Morning News.

Except for one not-so-tiny problem: While anyone buying those cold and allergy drugs, such as Sudafed, has to show a photo ID and sign a register at the pharmacy, state regulators still haven't actually checked those registers for abusers.

  • The Texas law bars customers from buying more than two packages at a time; a store cannot sell more than 9 grams of pseudoephedrine -- about 300 pills -- to a single customer during a 30-day period.
  • But in the real world, there's little to prevent a prospective meth cook from going drugstore to drugstore with fake identification to acquire the needed pills.

What the law does is make obtaining pseudoephedrine more cumbersome for the bad guys, and that's good, says the News. But unless regulators can easily check purchase records, the law is more likely to drive up the price of street-corner meth than actually curtail use. In Oklahoma, for instance, law enforcement officials say they are finding fewer local meth labs, but more meth overall coming from the border than before that state's law limiting sales of pseudoephedrine products.

Texas must quickly establish procedure for regulators to check pharmacy registers and create a cost-effective electronic database of purchases. The latter will cost money, but some large drugstore chains and convenience stores probably have the means to use their existing inventory system to maintain digital records, says the News.

Source: Editorial, "A Meth Law With No Order: State needs to actually track drug purchases," Dallas Morning News, March 24, 2006.


Browse more articles on Government Issues