Reductio Creep Strikes Again


Frankly, I don't see anything exceptionally stupid about this law :

First, the state said you must make a special trip to the pharmacy counter to buy certain cold medicines. That was to curb production of methamphetamine.

Now, a St. Louis legislator wants you to do the same thing to buy an even more common household item — baking soda — because it's used to make crack cocaine.

Sales of cold medications containing pseudoephedrine, such as Sudafed, are strictly regulated in Missouri. Customers must show a photo ID when they buy the medicine. Pharmacists must log the names and addresses of buyers, including how much they buy. People under 18 may not buy the medicines.

The sponsor of the baking soda bill, Rep. Talibdin El-Amin, D-St. Louis, said the same approach was needed for baking soda because crack cocaine is often produced by dissolving powdered cocaine in a mixture of water and baking soda.

Note that I used the word "exceptionally." That is, this bill is really no stupider than the cold medicine law. In both cases, you're treating the vast majority of people who use a legal product legally like children, simply because a few people use it illegally. Still, supporters of the meth law are dismissive of this one.

"When you generate a list of people who use baking soda, it pretty much includes everyone. It's a common household item," said Tom Murphy, a special agent with the St. Louis division of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

And how is that different from cold and allergy medication? I'd wager that a pretty high percentage of American households have those, too. No, Sudafed doesn't dissolve the odors in your refrigerator (then again, neither does baking soda). But should we really subject the citizens of Missouri to the scourge of crack cocaine if simply asking them to take the time to sign a registry can eliminate it forever, just like meth? That's not too much to ask, is it?

Unlike Pete Guither (hat tip), I actually think drug policy reformers should embrace this bill. In fact, I think they should urge the Missouri legislature to pass it. Better yet, let's pressure Armand Hammer to stop its shameless crack profiteering, and put out a substitute baking soda that can't be used by crack pushers. It needn't be effective as a baking additive. In fact, it can be completely useless. The only important thing is that it can't be turned into crack.

Perhaps once we're required to sign notebooks to purchase everything from baking soda to computer duster people will begin to see how silly all of this really is.