Proposed law tightens sales of cold meds

Published 12:20 am Monday, April 18, 2005

The Alabama Legislature is considering a bill that would require consumers who buy products containing pseudoephedrine to show photo identification and sign a register that would be available for inspection by law enforcement.
Pseudoephedrine, an ingredient typically found in over-the-counter cold medicines, also is used in the illegal crystal methamphetamine.
Under the provisions of Section 20-2-188, on or after Oct. 1, 2009, no product containing the ingredients ephedrine or pseudoephedrine will be sold in the state of Alabama unless the product is placed in a locked display case so that customers must ask a store employee for assistance.
According to agent Mike Lambert with the 21st Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force, Wal-Mart and Dollar General have already adopted the policy to pull the products and put them behind the counter.
The "some" he is referring to are everyday people who have sinus problems and may feel they shouldn't be punished like a criminal.
Lambert, whose sinuses are bothering him already, has had to purchase products containing those ingredients. However, he said it goes back to common sense stuff. For instance, the signed register would be used as a tool for law enforcement to investigate potential drug abusers.
Following a thorough background check would allow investigators to determine whether someone was abusing the drug or simply using the drug.
"If nothing else we would use it as an investigative tool," Lambert said. "I'm not going to say it's going to make it more difficult to manufacture it (the ingredients)-it may push some folks to go underground. The ingredients are a must (for methamphetamines)."
While criminals may go underground and develop the ingredient through another source, or make it themselves Lambert said, it would deter many from going store-to-store and producing it expeditiously.
Lambert added that some stores have already made it a point to implement "secret shoppers" that inform law enforcement of consumers who purchase products in mass quantities that are used primarily to make methamphetamines.
The bill also states that a person who possesses, sells, transfers or furnishes the chemicals with knowledge that the substance will be used in an unlawful manner will be charged with a Class B felony.
On August 1, 2004, the state Legislature already ordered products that contain the ingredient ephedrine-with a strength of 30 mg-must only be sold in "blister" packages and could not be sold loose in bottles.