House OKs bill limiting purchases in Oklahoma of allergy drug pseudoephedrine used in meth, called toughest in the nation
BY WAYNE GREENE World Senior Writer
Thursday, May 03, 2012
5/03/12 at 7:39 AM
Read the Tulsa World’s continuing coverage of the meth epidemic.
OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma House gave final legislative approval Wednesday to a bill limiting the sale of pseudoephedrine, the popular anti-allergy drug that is a key ingredient in most Oklahoma meth labs.
The House approved Senate amendments to House Bill 2941, sending the proposal to Gov. Mary Fallin for her consideration.
"It's the toughest methamphetamine bill in the nation," said Rep. David Derby, R-Owasso, the bill's author.
The bill limits purchases of the non-prescription drug to 3.6 grams a day and 7.2 grams a month. The current limit is 9 grams a month.
The bill also would cut the annual purchase limit to 60 grams. The current limit is 108 grams.
A 10-tablet package of 24-hour Sudafed has 2.4 grams of pseudoephedrine.
Previous state limits only applied to dry tablet forms of the drug, but the bill would include liquid and gelcap forms, which the DEA says also can be used to manufacture methamphetamines.
Further pseudoephedrine purchases would be blocked for 72 hours after the daily limit is met.
The bill also would link Oklahoma to a 21-state electronic drug tracking system, which will allow the state to prevent pseudoephedrine buyers from avoiding sales limits by crossing state lines.
Other parts of the bill would increase criminal penalties on people who buy pseudoephedrine for drug labs and allow pharmacists to make purchasing the drug more difficult for illegitimate uses.
Police found 843 meth labs in the state last year, including 429 in Tulsa. Although there are several ways to produce meth, almost all Oklahoma labs use pseudoephedrine - which is cheap and commercially available - as the starting point.
Police and prosecutors pushed for legislation to make pseudoephedrine a prescription-only drug, sparking one of the most heated debates of the legislative year.
Physicians and pharmacists groups opposed the measure, as did the lobbying arm of the over-the-counter drug industry.
Ultimately, a prescription restriction and a proposal to allow local governments to restrict pseudoephedrine sales were killed in House committees.
The Derby bill was proposed as an alternative that would tighten access to the drug with less inconvenience to legitimate buyers.
Sen. Rick Brinkley, R-Owasso, the bill's Senate author, said he hopes the bill will result in more busts of meth labs and less supply of the drug to Oklahoma addicts, but real solutions to the problem will require dealing with demand for the drug.
"Until we adequately fight addiction in this state, meth usage will continue," he said. "In the meantime, law-abiding citizens should not be the ones to pay the price. It didn't work with prohibition and it won't work with meth."
He said Wednesday's vote was an exciting day.
"We have worked hard to reduce the availability of pseudoephedrine to those who manufacture meth, but at the same time, protect the ability of law-abiding citizens to have access to the medications they need without obtaining a prescription," Brinkley said. "It is a victory of personal rights and keeping the government out of our medicine cabinets and at the same time, passing the toughest anti-meth bill in the nation."
If signed into law by the governor, the bill would go into effect July 1.
About House Bill 2941
Authors: Rep. David Derby, R-Owasso, and Sen. Rick Brinkley, R-Owasso
History: Passed House 82-5, March 13. Amended and passed Senate 46-1, April 17; Amended version passed House 89-1, Wednesday.
Next stop: Gov. Mary Fallin's desk
Original Print Headline: House OKs bill limiting sale of meth ingredient
- Limits purchases of pseudoephedrine to 3.6 grams a day, 7.2 grams a month, 60 grams a year.
- 72-hour block on further purchases after the daily limit is met.
- Links Oklahoma to a 21-state electronic drug tracking system.
- Protects pharmacists who refuse to sell pseudoephedrine to buyers who don't have a legitimate need.
- Doubles potential criminal penalties for people who buy pseudoephedrine, if prosecutors can prove the drugs were used to manufacture meth.
- Allow pharmacies to collect a service charge up to the cost of the medicine in advance of a sale. If the buyer is rejected by the tracking system, the pharmacy would keep the charge. Otherwise it would be applied to the customer's bill.
Wayne Greene 918-581-8308
Rep. David Derby, R-Owasso