Moral Absurdity

The Arizona Legislature should start caring more about children than zygotes

"Iowa, Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas have all passed the Oklahoma provision in the last couple of weeks," a clearly frustrated Goddard tells me. "Interestingly, there hasn't been a single legislative vote against it in those states. Yet we can't even get a vote on our bill in Arizona."

Pearce and Farnsworth refused to allow O'Halleran's bill to be heard in their respective committees, which would have killed it for this session. Except that O'Halleran resurrected it by inserting language into another bill that is awaiting a hearing in the House Rules Committee.

O'Halleran's language would require any medication (typically cold remedies) containing pseudoephedrine in pill form to be pulled off shelves and sold only by licensed pharmacists. Just pills containing pseudoephedrine can be used to cook meth.

Attorney General Terry Goddard is pushing a law to control the main ingredient in meth. It's common sense!
SZABO Photography
Attorney General Terry Goddard is pushing a law to control the main ingredient in meth. It's common sense!

Medications containing pseudoephedrine in gel or liquid forms would be exempt from the law and remain on the shelves of grocery stores and convenience markets.

The legislation would limit the amount of pseudoephedrine pills that could be sold to consumers. But the language would still allow any one customer to buy more pseudoephedrine in a month -- 367 30-milligram tablets -- than I've consumed in my entire life.

Under the current law, consumers can buy virtually unlimited amounts of cold pills.

The legislation would also require purchasers of pseudoephedrine pills to show photo identification and sign a log book that would be available to law enforcement.

Controlling the sale of pseudoephedrine is supported by more than 40 organizations in Arizona representing cops, prosecutors, firefighters, labor unions, children's groups and mental-health advocates. Several religious groups are also behind the legislation -- including the Arizona Interfaith Network.

Yet it continues to languish in the final weeks of this session because ultra-conservative Republicans like Pearce and Farnsworth don't want to impinge on the free market and upset powerful business interests.

Retail drug stores and their legal dope purveyors are vigorously opposing the proposed law, claiming it would put an unnecessary burden on pharmacists. What a crock! I don't see how saying grace over one more drug is going to ruin a pharmacist's day.

The real issue is that drug companies and drugstores don't want to do anything that might reduce profits generated by the sale of pseudoephedrine.

Opponents also claim parents in rural areas with a limited number of pharmacies might be inconvenienced if they are restricted in buying cold remedies to only when pharmacy counters of drugstores are open.

This, of course, is ridiculous. As I said before, who's going to need more than 367 pills per month? Besides, any customer can always go to a 24-hour grocery store and buy pseudoephedrine in liquid form.

Since there is no good reason to oppose the proposed law, the lobbyists for retailers and pharmaceutical companies are resorting to lame anti-gun-control-type sloganeering to deflect attention from the fact that they are selling and manufacturing a product that is easily transformed into a potentially deadly drug.

"They [retailers and drug companies] are not the bad guys," Mike Gardner, a lobbyist for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, told the Arizona Capitol Times. "We need to focus on people who are manufacturing, producing and selling methamphetamines. Let's not go overboard just because it's a noble goal."

Consider the source. Of course they're the bad guys, along with the meth cooks.

O'Halleran's legislation would not eliminate meth consumption in Arizona -- 75 percent of the drug entering Arizona comes from super labs in Mexico. But it would put a major crimp in the operation of clandestine meth labs fouling our state.

The legislation is far from going overboard. It's common sense. Not only would it reduce the number of meth labs because a basic ingredient would be harder to come by, Goddard believes it would put a dent in crime related to the skyrocketing addiction to meth in Arizona.

"Meth poisons neighborhoods, it poisons children, and it's closely connected to a long list of other crimes -- including domestic abuse, child neglect, burglary, auto theft, identify theft and counterfeiting," Goddard says.

If anything, the new law would not go far enough in identifying products that can be easily purchased to make meth.

News of the possible state control of pseudoephedrine has meth cooks looking at other options. A surprisingly simple meth synthesis is based on the amino acid phenylalanine, available at health-food stores at a cost of $14 for 100 tablets.

Note to Goddard and O'Halleran: Get some legislation going to address phenylalanine, too.

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