Multi-state anti-meth registry starts Jan. 1
BY WAYNE GREENE World Senior Writer
Sunday, December 30, 2012
12/30/12 at 7:25 AM
The final element of a hotly debated law aimed at reducing the number of illegal meth labs in the state goes into effect Jan. 1.
All state pharmacies are on schedule to be part of a multistate drug registry, which should allow the state to stop people from avoiding states' limits on pseudoephedrine purchases by crossing state lines.
Oklahoma has had sales limits and an electronic registry of pseudoephedrine sales for years, but the new system will make it more difficult to avoid those limits, said Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control spokesman Mark Woodward.
"It ties all the neighboring states together and that's going to be really important for places like Lawton, Sequoyah County and up in Miami (Okla.), where someone might get their daily limit here in Oklahoma and then drive to Joplin or Fort Smith or Wichita Falls and get another daily limit," Woodward said.
About 70 percent of Oklahoma pharmacies are already online with the multistate system and all of them should be operating on it by Jan. 1, he said.
The same law has been limiting the amount of pseudoephedrine available for purchase since July 1.
Without a prescription, the 72-hour limit is 3.6 grams of the popular anti-allergy medication that is a key ingredient in most Oklahoma meth labs. The monthly limit is 7.2 grams and the annual limit is 60 grams.
The state's meth registry blocked 76,000 sales of pseudoephedrine last year and is on pace to block 80,000 sales this year, Woodward said.
While the limits were first enforced in July, they applied to purchases going back to Jan. 1, Woodward said. So, some customers almost immediately found they were up against the annual limit.
There is no limit to the amount that can be purchased with a prescription.
The new law - House Bill 2941 - was a controversial one.
Some, including Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris, had pushed for a stronger law to require a prescription for all pseudoephedrine purchases.
Woodward said the number of meth labs discovered by police is down sharply ahead of the new registry.
Oklahoma police dealt with 909 meth labs last year and are on pace to see only about 700 this year, he said.
The drop has been especially noticeable in northeastern Oklahoma and Tulsa, he said.
Harris agreed that there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of meth labs in the area but said it obviously is not related to the electronic registry and he suspects it isn't related to the purchase limits either.
Strong prosecution of meth cooks may have turned the tide, he said.
"We have been putting a whole bunch of people in the penitentiary for manufacturing meth," Harris said. "I think we have put a significant dent in the cook population in Tulsa County."
He said the high amount of publicity about the debate on the law may also have had some effect by heightening social attention to the dangers of meth labs and the potential for going to prison if caught making the drug.
"As part of that debate, my message came out loud and clear: If you're manufacturing methamphetamines, it's 10 years in the penitentiary first time out of the chute," Harris said. "Maybe that dissuaded a certain number of folks."
When the prescription restriction failed to make law, Harris hotly called out legislators for being weak on crime and said HB 2941 would be ineffective.
Rep. David Derby, R-Owasso, author of the bill, said the new sale limits are effective and have played a role in the reduced number of meth labs.
Having all the state's pharmacies online to prevent cross-border purchases of the drug will further tighten the situation, he said.
Derby also gave credit to prosecutors for doing their part to fight illegal drug labs.
"Tim Harris is doing an outstanding job on this issue," Derby said. "He is a great champion against methamphetamines."
About House Bill 2941
Authors: Rep. David Derby, R-Owasso, and Sen. Rick Brinkley, R-Owasso
History: Passed House 82-5, on March 13. Amended and passed Senate 46-1, on April 17; Signed by Gov. Mary Fallin, on May 8.
Original Print Headline: Anti-meth tracking begins
- Limits purchases of pseudoephedrine to 3.6 grams a day, 7.2 grams a month, 60 grams a year.
- 72-hour block on purchases after the daily limit is met.
- No limit on pseudoephedrine purchases with a physician's prescription.
- Purchase limits went into effect July 1.
- State deadline for full entry into multi-state electronic drug sale tracking system is Jan. 1.
- Protects pharmacists who refuse to sell pseudoephedrine to buyers who don't have a legitimate need.
- Allows 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 buyer's bill.
Wayne Greene 918-581-8308