Governor: keep tough meth rules on the books

SALEM, Ore. (AP) – Citing a reduction in meth lab seizures, Gov. Ted Kulongoski urged the state Board of Pharmacy to approve permanent rules to keep certain cold medicines away from methamphetamine cooks.

At Kulongoski’s request, the board last October passed temporary rules to tighten consumer access to cold pills that can be used to make meth.

Appearing before the board Monday, Kulongoski said the rules appear to have brought about a 50 percent reduction in the number of small meth labs around Oregon.

He cited Oregon State Police figures showing that the number of meth lab busts has declined from an average of 40 a month prior to adoption of the rule to about 20 a month since then.

That mirrors a reduction in meth lab seizures reported by police in Oklahoma, the first state to adopt the restriction on cold medicine sales, Kulongoski noted.

"It means our neighborhoods have less toxic waste littering our streets and streams," he said. "And most importantly, it means we have fewer children being exposed to the production of this poisonous drug."

Under the temporary rules adopted in October, consumers must show picture identification to purchase cold medications containing pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient for cooking up methamphetamine.

Kulongoski on Monday urged the board to adopt permanent rules to require pharmacists to collect the identities of those who purchase solid forms of pseudoephedrine, and enter the information into an electronic database. The board is scheduled to vote on the change Wednesday.

Keeping a log of customers who purchase the cold medications will help law enforcement agencies "identify suspicious behavior, such as purchasing pseudoephedrine products in amounts that far exceed the need of a citizen with a common cold or allergies," he said.

However, a representative of chain drug stores expressed doubt about that proposed requirement, saying it’s not clear how that information will be used to fight meth.

The proposed requirement contains no provision for the information on those customer logs to be checked by law enforcement authorities or shared by the various stores.