Methamphetamines are a terrible drug problem that ruins lives every day. But the answer to the issue is not legislation that will punish law-abiding citizens.
Some state legislators from both parties are pushing a bill called SB 45 that would make any over-the-counter cold-remedy medicine that contains the ingredient pseudoephedrine available by prescription only.
Their reasoning seems sound on the surface. Pseudoephedrine is one of the key ingredients in the production of meth. The less available it is, they theorize, the less production of the drug. But pseudoephedrine also happens to be the main ingredient in Sudafed and many other over-the-counter cold remedies.
There is already a federal and state database that tracks and limits the purchase of such medicines. In spite of this, law-enforcement officials have discovered a practice known as “smurfing,” in which people are hired by drug-makers to purchase these drugs in multiple stores and bring them back.
There are two reasons that making some over-the-counter cold remedies only available by prescription won’t actually slow down this process.
First, only three states have passed similar laws — Mississippi, Missouri and Oregon — which means that all but one of the states surrounding Kentucky pose no problem for the drug-maker’s supply. They can simply send their “smurfs” to other nearby states to pick up the product, a minor adjustment in a very profitable business.
In addition, some meth-makers are already getting their pseudoephedrine supply from Mexico, where drug laws are much more lax and established cartels are defying law enforcement on both sides of the border. As legislation increases difficulties in procuring the ingredients here, the supply chain simply shifts to Mexico.
If SB 45 were to pass, it will make things more difficult on law-abiding citizens than criminals. You may now have to go to the doctor the next time you have the sniffles or an allergy attack — a common occurrence in the Ohio Valley and Bluegrass area. Imagine paying a doctor’s co-pay and missing work time each time you need to clear your sinuses. You would have to pay higher health costs because of this legislation.
What concerns me most in this debate is the number of conservatives who are pushing for SB 45. Senate President David Williams has come out in support, and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers testified before committee in both chambers of the legislature.
Republicans pushing such a piece of legislation while pursuing the protection of our second Amendment rights find themselves in an intellectual pickle.
Liberals often use the argument that guns kill people and therefore must be banned. Those of us who value the right to bear arms have long made the counterargument that guns don’t kill people; people kill people. In other words, someone must choose to pull the trigger. Conservatives have long stood up for personal responsibility and it is a valuable defense against the nanny state being proffered by the left.
Like any invention throughout the history of man, any inanimate object in the hands of an evil human can be used for evil. But most people are not evil — and innocent people are not responsible for the actions of criminals.
The vast majority of Kentuckians are law-abiding citizens. While I understand the desire of lawmakers to do something about this problem, we must not punish good citizens with higher health care costs in order to pass a piece of legislation that will do little to punish the criminals who are producing methamphetamines.
Editor’s note: Leland Conway is co-founder and executive editor of www.conservativeedge.com and host of the Pulse of Lexington on News Radio 630 WLAP. He can be reached for comment at Leland@conservativeedge.com.