In 2005, North Carolina joined the majority of the states by passing law restricting the sale of products containing pseudoephedrine. The decongestant is a key ingredient of methamphetamine. By requiring customers to show identification and to sign a register and then limiting the amount of the drug they could purchase in one month, lawmakers hoped to curtail the manufacture of crystal meth. According to an Associated Press report, the meth marketplace didn’t take exactly the turn law enforcement experts thought it would.
The AP looked at three states that instituted electronic tracking databases to track pseudoephedrine sales at pharmacies. The database made it possible for pharmacies to enforce the sales limit per customer more effectively.
The strategy worked for a while, and the meth trade did decline. Law enforcement insiders believe that the decline can be attributed to meth producers and dealers regrouping and figuring a way around the new laws. Meth is on the rise again.
Instead of forcing people out of the business, the laws created what one Drug Enforcement Administration agent called “a sub-criminal culture.” Profiteers stepped in to build networks of people who purchase pseudoephedrine drugs at pharmacies so the “pill brokers” could sell to drug manufacturers at a significant mark-up. In some cases, a $7 purchase could be turned into a $50 resale. In a bad economy, the opportunity to make easy money was irresistible for many.
In our next post, we’ll discuss the increase in meth crimes and some responses from supporters of the tracking laws.
Resource: AP “Meth Flourishes Despite Tracking Laws” 01/10/11