Anti-meth measure limits sale of cold pills
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON - Cold remedies that can be used by drug dealers to make methamphetamine would be forced behind store counters under legislation Congress is poised to pass by year's end.
Lawmakers hope that federal restrictions - included in the agreement reached Thursday to reauthorize the Patriot Act - will stem a meth trade that has hit rural America particularly hard.
A number of states have already moved to curb the sale of cold pills containing pseudoephedrine, the ingredient used to cook meth in makeshift labs. The federal law would prevent meth makers from moving to states with weaker laws.
Stores would be required to keep medicines like Sudafed and Nyquil behind the counter and consumers would be limited to 3.6 grams, or about 120 pills, per day and 9 grams, or about 300 pills, a month. Purchasers would also need to show a photo ID and sign a logbook.
Those limits target meth dealers who buy large quantities of the drugs to extract the pseudoephedrine.
The measure is a compromise reached after months of haggling over the 30-day limit. Sens. Jim Talent, R-Mo., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who pushed the legislation in the Senate, insisted the limit was needed to curb the meth epidemic.
''The heart of this legislation is a strong standard for keeping pseudoephedrine products out of the hands of meth cooks,'' Feinstein said.
Under the bill, stores with pharmacies would have to keep the medicine behind the pharmacy counter. Stores without pharmacies could sell cold medicines from a locked case behind a store counter if they gain approval from the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Many retailers - including Kmart, Walgreens, Target and Wal-Mart - have adopted guidelines to limit access to cold products or to limit their sales.