I am always willing to give credit where credit is due.
Indiana Dist. 12 State Senator Carlin Yoder, a Republican from Middlebury – and others like him from both sides of the aisle – have successfully made Indiana No. 1 in the nation.
Unfortunately, it’s No. 1 in the number of meth lab busts.
You see, Yoder authored Senate Bill 496. It created tighter restrictions on ephedrine/pseudoephedrine — a key meth ingredient found in several over-the-counter decongestants.
Yoder’s legislation allowed ephedrine/pseudoephedrine to be sold only at retailers participating in the National Precursor Log Exchange database, which tracks the sale of ephedrine/pseudoephedrine products.
It prohibited anyone convicted of certain meth-related crimes from possessing ephedrine/pseudoephedrine without a prescription for seven years.
It increased the criminal penalty for a person who buys more than 10 grams of certain meth ingredients – including ephedrine/pseudoephedrine – with the intent to give them to another person for meth making.
It limited how much ephedrine/pseudoephedrine a person can buy in a one-year period without a prescription to 61.2 grams.
“This legislation limits access to ephedrine products for people convicted of meth-related crimes without increasing the burden on Hoosier families who need these products for legitimate medical reasons,” Yoder said back then.
His law passed because it gave the legislature an option to avoid making pseudoephedrine prescription only, which is what really needs to happen to end the meth lab scourge.
See, pseudoephedrine used to be prescription only, but it was made over-the-counter in Indiana in 1976. This, of course, was long before people figured out how to turn it into a mind-searing, skin- and tooth-rotting scourge.
I remember sitting at a town hall meth meeting and listening to Yoder talk about his bill. I knew then – and wrote in this very space – that tracking was the wrong approach and it wouldn’t work.
But he said that we needed to try his tracking method first. Fair enough. We’ve done that now. The law passed in May 2013. It appears to be failing miserably. Now can we move on and do the right thing?
I don’t know. Yoder seems to be doubling down.
He spoke with Associated Press earlier this week after the data came out showing Indiana reclaimed the top meth lab spot.
AP asked him about making pseudoephedrine prescription only.
“I think it’s a knee-jerk reaction to the problem,” he said. “It will inconvenience a lot of people who need this product without accomplishing its goals,” he said.
He said that eliminating meth labs won’t eliminate meth, much of which is smuggled from Mexico.
OK, but that’s not the point.
We’re not talking about eliminating meth. We’re talking about eliminating meth labs.
There’s always going to be meth – and cocaine and heroin and prescription narcotics and pot. There will always be people buying and selling illegal drugs.
It’s the meth labs that are blowing up, killing people, burning down houses and endangering the lives of innocent children.
We had a car blow up and catch fire a couple of blocks away from Syracuse Elementary School. What if kids had been walking home along that street?
It’s simple. No pseudoephedrine, no meth labs.
I know that drug companies selling pseudoephedrine will lose money. Of course they will. That’s because more than 70 percent of all pseudoephedrine sold around here winds up in meth labs. So it only stands to reason that their sales will drop.
But you know what? Those sales are blood money anyway.
Here’s an irony for you.
Guess what state we unseated as No. 1 in the meth lab sweepstakes?
Guess what Missouri did?
I don’t even have to tell you, but I will anyway.
They passed a law to allow communities to require prescriptions for pseudoephedrine and 14 counties in southeast Missouri did just that. (I am going to assume, without research, that these are the 14 counties with the biggest meth problem.)
Those counties experienced an 80 percent drop in meth labs, according to Jason Grellner, the chief narcotics officer in one of those counties who also was quoted in the AP article.
He also said two pharmacies in his area that had been selling 24,000 boxes of pseudoephedrine a year dropped to 2,000 after the area started requiring prescriptions.
Yoder knew stuff like this was happening before he sponsored his bill. He had spoken with Rob Bovett, a former Lincoln County, Oregon, district attorney.
Bovett told Yoder in no uncertain terms that making pseudoephedrine available by prescription was the only effective way to get rid of meth labs.
Bovett knew this because he was instrumental in making that happen in Oregon where he saw the same results we’re now seeing in Missouri.
Based on his real-world experiences in Oregon, Bovett told Yoder tracking wouldn’t work and is easily circumvented by meth cooks. Bovett told Yoder requiring prescriptions wouldn’t drive up Medicaid costs. Bovett told Yoder that most of the information Yoder was using to support his tracking bill was big pharma propaganda.
In an email to reporter Jordan Fouts, this is how Bovett characterized his conversation with Yoder.
“What I found incredibly interesting about my conversation with Senator Yoder was how he went about telling me what was really happening in Oregon, contrary to what I was saying and contrary to all of the evidence. Baffling.”
And one more thing.
This whole notion pushed by some folks that making pseudoephedrine a prescription drug is an “expansion of government” or a “government intrusion” is just silly.
Making that argument is akin to arguing that stops signs are a government intrusion into the ability to make it to work on time.
This is a public health and safety issue. This is life and death versus stuffy noses.
Why can’t we get this right once and for all?
Hey, Sen. Yoder.
Tell your health industry lobbyist buddies that you gave it the good old college try and things just didn’t work out. Or better yet, tell your health industry lobbyist buddies to take a long walk off a short pier.
In either case, tell them – and all your constituents – that you’re going to halt the meth scourge by making pseudoephedrine a prescription drug again.
C’mon, man.