Runny Nose? Suck It Up!


The Indianapolis Star reports that state Rep. Trent Van Haaften plans to "introduce legislation–modeled after an Oklahoma law–that would place dozens of cold medicines behind [the] pharmacy counter. Anyone wanting cold and allergy medicines that contain pseudoephedrine would have to show identification and sign for it." Why? Because pseudoephedrine is part of the recipe for methamphetamine.

Pharmacists and other retailers object that such a system would be a pain in the ass for them and their customers. Drug companies are not too happy either, worried that the hassle will deter potential buyers.

But Van Haaften doesn't care. "There has to be a time when we start demonstrating the seriousness of this problem," he says.

Note that it's all about "demonstrating the seriousness of the problem"–i.e., sending a message–as opposed to actually stopping people from making meth. Critics note that speed cookers can always get their pseudoephedrine outside of Indiana.

[Thanks to Nicolas Martin for the link.]

NEXT: No Immunity From Arrest

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. That’s it, I’m suing them for slander. I appreciate the idea that I’m essential to the manufacture of methamphetamine, but really, I’ve been on vacation lately and it doesn’t seem to’ve slowed anyone down.

  2. come to think of it, carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen — all precursors! ban ’em!!

  3. One step forward. One step backward.
    See the editorial in today’s New York Times praising California governor Schwarzenegger for legalizing needles.

  4. Showing concern and demonstrating seriousness is a fairly complete list of what centralized (Federal and State) governments are capable of doing.

    Recall the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, the War on Terror (a war on words not of words?)? How many times has some Senator (Teddy Kennedy leaps to mind) stood up and proclaimed to have passed legislation that will “FIX” education or some such? Too many to list here.

    Solving problems? Preventing problems? Hardy har har har! How about creating problems?

  5. The most ridiculous part of this whole thing is that you have to buy a LOT of OTC pseudoephedrine to get enough to make any reasonable-size batch of meth. It’s not like you can synthesize an ounce of meth with one or two (or even fifteen or twenty) packages of Sudafed. And the filler and other crap in the pills makes the purification a lot more difficult and tedious.

    As you said, it’s all about the appearance of “doing something.”

  6. This is a good pretext for referring libertarians to the essential anti-drug prohibition works of Thomas Szasz. They include “Ceremonial Chemistry,” “Our Right to Drugs,” and, with Milton Friedman, “Friedman and Szasz on Liberty and Drugs.” Libertarians usually oppose the drug war, but Szasz makes it clear that this is not sufficient. We must also oppose the crushing paternalism of the Therapeutic State. Too many libertarians actually support the premises that the State employs to justify the drug war. Szasz speaks directly to libertarians about that in his new book, “Faith in Freedom.”

  7. What Nicolas Martin said is an argument for why I’m an anarchist. I recommend it to all.
    What is the purpose of government other than to govern? I don’t need governing, especially by the likes of Van Haaften. Do you?

  8. Sudafed behind the counter but ammonium nitrate fertilizer and gasoline still sold to any wingnut who wants it?

    At least we’ve got our priorities straight.

  9. The big story here is the outsourcing of meth production to Mexico, get Kerry on this right away!

  10. But it’s a growing list of things behind the counter. Baby formula, did you know baby formula can be used to make drugs? So harried mothers need to stand in hugh customer service lines to get formula for their screaming kids. And the latest is Priolsec, which is increasingly hard to find. The one place that did have it this weekend (and it was the third I checked), had it behind the counter. Because it got stolen, they said.

    So much for self-service supermarkets!

  11. This made me have a flashback to living in England and having well meaning but self-important cash register clerks in the pharmacy quiz me about whether I had ever taken ibuprofen before or what kind of cough I had before letting me me buy what I asked for. Regardless of one’s view of the drug war this sort of law is just silly: I’m not an expert but I assume it takes more of those little blister-packs with 10 Sudafed in them to make a batch of crystal meth than my local Eckerd’s keeps on the shelf.

  12. FYI…for several years now it has been illegal in California to sell more than a month supply of any product containing psuedoephedrine to a customer. Which means that meth cookers who want to buy California (at retail, no less) must bounce from drug store to Costco to grocery store to obtain an adequate supply!

  13. I saw the CA law in action several years ago. I was standing in line behind a woman who tried to buy a bunch of cold medicine. That raised a red flag in the cash register’s computer, and she had to put some of it back. The cashier said that it’s because you can use cold medicine to buy meth.

    The cashier also said that undercover cops have been known to go to drug stores and buy slightly less than the proscribed amount, take it to the car, then come back in and try to buy more. If the cashier doesn’t stop this, then one more life is ruined by the war on drugs. Cuz, you know, the best way to keep our streets safe is to take a young man working a regular job, send him to prison where he can be initiated into a gang, and then put him back on the streets with a drug conviction that makes it harder to find work.

    I also recall hearing a case of a convenience store owner who was approached by an undercover cop wanting a giant case of cold medicine. The owner said that he didn’t keep much in stock. The undercover cop came back a few days in a row. Finally the owner said “I can’t imagine why anybody would want that much cold medicine, but if you insist I can put you in touch with my wholesaler. You’ll get your medicine, my wholesaler will get a big sale, I’ll get a commission, and we’ll all be happy.” Except that when the owner delivered the medicine he was arrested. Even though he was here legally, he now has a drug conviction, and when he’s done serving his sentence he’ll be deported back to the Middle East.

    At least he didn’t try to sell a Cat Stevens CD to the undercover cops. 😉

  14. I wonder how much meth this Van Haaften clown had to smoke to come up with this.

  15. “No, I don’t need to be governed, but all those other assholes out there sure do.”

  16. At the local Walgreens here they were hiding the pseudophedrine behind the counter for a little bit after the effedra ban. I only know this because I went in there with the worst sinus headache I’d had in years looking for my fix of ‘drine — imagine my joy at having to spend 15 minutes trying to find where the goddamn stuff was.

    But last week I went in there and the stuff was back on the shelf. I guess all the people who were going to die from heart attacks from the stuff have croaked already, so it’s back to business as usual.

  17. Thoreau, those stories make me want to spit in anger! I remember being a cashier for awhile during college, and selling alcohol once to one of the company’s underage “plants” whom I forgot to card. I suppose I could have gone to jail if it was a police plant. This, by the way, is the reason that store clerks will card anyone for alcohol and cigarettes (!) who looks to be under, oh, retirement age. It sickened me then that I had to practice law enforcement as part of my crappy minimum wage job, and it sickens me even more now that the situation just gets worse and worse.

  18. Thoreau, those stories make me want to spit in anger!

    And now you can drip in anger, too.

  19. Here in the People’s Republic of North Dakota, they already have a law restricting the amount of Sudafed you can buy at one time to two boxes. Of course the good god-fearing, government-worshipping, individuality-scorning plain folk of the Peace Garden State think that’s just a jim-dandy idea, because after all, what do you need with all that cold medicine anyway? Hey, if you’re not a criminal, you don’t have to really worry, right? (These are the people, after all, who put Byron Dorgan in the Senate.)

    But hey…as long as they don’t mess with my NyQuil…

  20. “But hey…as long as they don’t mess with my NyQuil…”

    That really would be going to far. Therefore, it’s highly likely politicians will mess with it. That stuff is the elixir of the Gods.

  21. Has it occured to any of the politicians in North Dakota that in a place with such savage winters a person might want to stock up on cold medicine before the blizzards come?

  22. Ahhh, dormant commerce clause anyone?

  23. Here in the People’s Republic of North Dakota, they already have a law restricting the amount of Sudafed you can buy at one time to two boxes.

    The same law is on the books in Indiana. A friend of mine works security for the a Target store in Indiana, and there is a large amount of surveillence that goes on in cooperation with local law enforcement, tracking individuals that go from store to store buying boxes of Sudafed. As far as I can tell they spend a lot of time on this stuff, possibly more than on employee theft and shoplifting. Then of course there are those who shoplift a whole lot of Sudafed at once… .

    Because of this, many local grocery and drug stores already keep pseudoephedrine-containing products behind the drug counter (“This box is for display purposes only!”). It helps them keep track of who is getting two boxes at a time. So this law even more useless than it looks at first glance (and it already looks pretty useless), because business is already dealing with the issue.

  24. PE/E or none, the the Push-Pull reactions go onward…

    We are speed freaks. We know not this business of “surrender.”

    Someone is gonna fork over that dope, because it’s just a poor idea to deny the speed freak his due dope, damnit! We’re a tense fucking people! We’re not to be prodded.

  25. “Critics note that speed cookers can always get their pseudoephedrine outside of Indiana.”

    This proves that we need our FEDERAL government to impose restrictions across the board. Where is the DEA in all this?? Aren’t they supposed to protect us?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.