Legislative overkill on pseduoephedrine

August 05, 2005 12:00 am

First the Oregon House and now the Senate have succumbed to its wicked allure.

Once they have a taste of the stuff, all they can think about is how to get more.

His neighbors at the Capitol may be getting high on the stuff, but Gov. Ted Kulongoski needs to just say, "No."

The Oregon Legislature is in full over-reaction mode, legislating with the irrational zeal of someone in the midst of a meth binge.

Instead of speed, however, lawmakers in Salem are abusing haste in lawmaking. And just as meth ruins lives, haste makes waste.

A bill that would require a doctor's prescription for cold medicines that contain pseudoephedrine is just such a waste.

Don't get us wrong: Methamphetamine is a nasty, nasty drug.

And as hideous and awful as our society knows it to be, people continue to use it and become addicted.

Once you are addicted, and before you've sought (or been ordered to seek) help, you are going to beg, borrow and quite often steal to get it.

And where there are addicts, there's money to be made.

For some addicts, this means the riskiest home ec assignment ever, a caustic cookoff chock full of such delightful compounds as lithium batteries and road flares.

The danger poised by "meth labs" has led to new and prudent restrictions on the key ingredient in the recipe: cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine.

At present, Oregon has put these drugs behind the counter and requires a picture ID to purchase them.

Lawmakers claim this isn't enough. And they are right.

Because even if the governor signs off on making pseudoephedrine a prescription drug, nearby Idaho and Washington don't share the same restrictions.

So allergy sufferers and law-abiding citizens treating symptoms of the common cold will face the added expense of a doctor's visit in Oregon, or the added burden of suffering symptoms while they look for a non-prescription alternative.

And meth cooks will rack up some mileage, or set up shop in border areas like Hermiston and Ontario.

No, the United States needs a national policy on counter sales of pseudoephedrine.

And even then, the majority of methamphetamine consumed in Oregon isn't "cooked" at home. It is imported and distributed, like so many other drugs, by professional criminal organizations.

If you eliminated all home-cooked meth tomorrow, you'd eliminate some of the toxic danger to the public, but not the problem of meth addiction.

Ultimately, the unintended consequence of the Oregon Legislature's actions could be more cross-border transport of pseudoephedrine — and more dollars lining the pockets of ruthless drug lords.