Drug Policy

He Should Have Known He Needed a Prescription for an OTC Drug

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When Gary Schinagel's niece told him she had seen his name in a local newspaper story about a drug investigation, he decided to go down to the sheriff's office and straighten out what was obviously a misunderstanding. Instead Schinagel, a 47-year-old senior investment associate at Principal Financial Group in Mason City, Iowa, was arrested for violating a 2005 state law that aims to curtail methamphetamine production by limiting the amount of pseudoephedrine, a meth precursor, an individual may purchase. Buyers of cold and allergy remedies containing the chemical have to present ID and sign a log (a requirement that has since been imposed throughout the country by federal law), which allows police to track who is buying how much. Schinagel, who has suffered from chronic nasal congestion since childhood, was not using the pseudoephedrine to cook meth, and he says he's not even sure which rule he broke: the one against buying more than 3.6 grams (120 Sudafed tablets) in a 24-hour period or the one against buying more than 7.5 grams of pseudoephedrine (250 tablets) in a month. The latter offense is a "serious misdemeanor" that can get you up to a year in jail and a $1,500 fine.

The law does allow someone in Schinagel's medical situation to exceed the pseudoephedrine limits, but only with a prescription. "It is a sinking feeling to be placed under arrest," Schinagel, who is free on bail, told the Mason City Globe Gazette. "I've tried all my life to avoid situations like I find myself in now. And I still don't know which line I crossed."  

I bemoaned the Sudafed crackdown in a 2005 column.

[via The Drug War Chronicle]