Springfield, Missouri – With methamphetamine lab busts on the rise in Missouri, Governor Jay Nixon is calling on lawmakers to make certain cold medicines available only by prescription. The idea is to limit access to pseudoephedrine, a key meth ingredient. Nixon was in Springfield Tuesday to discuss the proposal. KSMU's Missy Shelton was there and files this report.
Flanked by Attorney General Chris Koster, sheriffs, and highway patrol officers, Governor Jay Nixon called on lawmakers to make pseudoephedrine only available by prescription. He made the case by outlining Missouri's meth problem.
"Missouri has been ranked number one in meth incidents for a decade," said Nixon. "All 10 of the states reporting the highest number of meth incidents are located in the Midwest, with Missouri at the epicenter of the meth epidemic."
If state lawmakers approve legislation limiting access to the meth precursor, Missouri would be the third state to do so. Nixon says the other two states that have already done this Oregon and Mississippi have seen dramatic reductions in meth lab busts.
As for the argument that this measure would be a big inconvenience for law-abiding allergy sufferers, Nixon says it won't be that big of a deal.
"These are the same arguments that were made when we passed the law that said these were going to have to go behind the counter, that it would be intrusive on folks," says Nixon. "I think Missourians understand that when law enforcement stands united and says, We need an additional tool to fight a meth epidemic,' when we're number one in the country for 10 years in a row for the number of meth labs, we're going to have to have the best tools in the country."
Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott was at the governor's press conference. He says this measure would allow his deputies to spend less time chasing those who are buying large amount of pseudoephedrine, a practice known as smurfing, and more time helping users and busting dealers.
"That's what we're doing, spending our time tracking who's buying, smurfing, not necessarily who's producing," says Arnott. "So, once we go back to the people who are working the smurfing end of it, then we track back to the labs, and by that time, we're cleaning up a lab site. What we'd like to do is get that at the beginning. This proposed legislation would help us do that."
The Missouri Pharmacy Association has opposed a prescription requirement, citing the inconvenience to patients.
Missouri lawmakers will consider this issue in the upcoming legislative session, which begins January 5th.