Sen. Dianne Feinstein began her war on allergy and cold sufferers in 2005. In an effort to prevent small-time dealers from buying allergy and cold drugs and cooking them into methamphetamine, she pushed through legislation requiring consumers to show identification before purchasing products with pseudoephedrine — otherwise known as the good allergy drugs, known only to those who know enough to ask for them.
Now Feinstein wants to make you get a prescription from a doctor before you buy these drugs.
In 2005, I thought Feinstein's Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act wrongly punished law-abiding citizens by limiting their access to over-the-counter medications. A spokesman for Di-Fi told me the legislation would prompt the pharmaceutical industry to find "alternatives to pseudoephedrine."
The industry found those alternatives. They just don't work so well as the old stuff. Nonetheless, Feinstein, a committed drug warrior, thought the downside for allergy and cold sufferers was worth the trade-off.
Now she's at it again. The Government Accountability Office reported a decrease in meth lab incidents in Oregon and Mississippi after those states passed laws requiring purchasers to present a doctor's prescription.
Feinstein crowed, "It's time to redouble our efforts to prevent these products from falling into the wrong hands by expanding these common-sense laws to all 50 states."
That's right. You have to contact a doctor because Feinstein thinks her 2005 law didn't do enough.
The drug trade has shown itself to be crafty in maneuvering around drug laws. The 2005 law required a buyer to show a driver's license. Would-be manufacturers started "smurfing" — sending recruits to multiple retailers to buy pills. Users started using the "shake and bake" method to produce small batches of meth in 2-liter plastic jugs.
The biggest beneficiaries of the Feinstein law, said Bill Piper of the anti-drug war Drug Policy Alliance, are Mexican drug cartels; Washington stomped on their competition. The Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that Mexico supplies as much as 80 percent of the methamphetamine in the United States.
Thus, a decline in meth lab incidents doesn't indicate a decline in methamphetamine use. According to a state report, Oregon's methamphetamine use "remains at a high level in the state," and 61 percent of Oregon law enforcement officers see methamphetamine as their area's greatest drug threat. California, Washington, Idaho and Nevada also experienced drops in meth lab incidents.
"We want to stop crime, but we don't want to force busy families to have to take time off work to see a doctor," sighed Elizabeth Funderburk of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. Cold sufferers could call their doctors to get a prescription, and maybe they'd get one without much delay or expense. But because a prescription requirement won't hamper Mexican cartels, why stick it to law-abiding Americans?
Email Debra J. Saunders at [email protected] To find out more about Debra J. Saunders and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.