Bill would regulate sale of pseudoephedrine

Wednesday, February 11th 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ It could take photo identification and a signature to buy cold tablets containing pseudoephedrine if a bill passed Tuesday by a House committee becomes law.

An amended version of Rep. John Nance's bill, called the ``Trooper Green Act,'' would make cold pills with pseudoephedrine a regulated substance that would only be sold by a licensed pharmacist. Pseudoephedrine, a decongestant, is the main ingredient in methamphetamine.

Currently, the cold pills are available at drug stores as well as grocery stores, discount stores and convenience stores.

``This is not a knee-jerk reaction to the execution of Trooper Green,'' said Nance, R-Bethany. ``We started this a long time ago with several bills and we've had an interim study.''

Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Nik Green was shot and killed Dec. 26, while checking on a car believed to contain a mobile meth lab that was stopped along a desolate stretch of a Cotton County road.

Nance's bill would regulate the sale of the cold pills and limit the amount a person could have at one time to 9 grams, or about 10 boxes.

``Pseudoephedrine is an excellent medicine that many of us use for a decongestant,'' Nance said. ``In the hands of somebody who knows how to cook it becomes methamphetamine. The only difference between pseudoephedrine and methamphetamine is one molecule.''

Green's widow, Linda, choked back tears as she was applauded before the House Criminal Justice Committee began hearing testimony on the bill.

Using products purchased at discount stores, Mark Woodward said he was able to get materials to make the drug for under $100.

``You control psuedoephedrine, you control the meth. Right now they're not going to any type of medical pharmacy to get this stuff,'' said Woodward, public information officer for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control.

``They're going to gas stations, they're going to 7-Elevens, they're going to retail stores. What they're not buying in large quantities out the back door at night, they're shoplifting.''

The only objection to the bill came from members of the agricultural community who said a provision that would require locks on anhydrous ammonia tanks punished people using the chemical correctly not meth cooks.

``We aren't dealing with people of reason,'' said Paul Jackson, a rancher in Love County, who says people stealing the fertilizer have driven through fences on his property to get to the chemical.

``Locks won't keep a drug dealer out. You are criminalizing the very citizens you intend to protect.''

The committee voted to removed the section of the bill that would require locks on tanks before passing the bill unanimously.