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OUR OPINION: Restrictions on meth create illicit industry

Efforts to choke the supply of a meth ingredient have created a new criminal cottage industry.

Methamphetamine, or meth, is a dangerous, deadly and highly addictive illegal substance.

Among the ingredients needed to manufacture, or cook, meth is pseudoephedrine, also an ingredient in many cold medicines.

In an attempt to curb meth production, governments have required cold medicines to be placed behind pharmacy counters and their sales to be tracked. Some governments require a doctor’s prescription for their purchase.

An analysis of federal data by The Associated Press revealed an unintended consequence — creation of a large, highly profitable industry of middle men who buy over-the-counter pills and resell them to meth makers at a huge markup.

“It’s almost like a sub-criminal culture,” said Gary Boggs, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent. “You’ll see them with a GPS unit set up in a van with a list of every single pharmacy or retail outlet. They’ll spend the entire week going store to store and buy to the limit.”

Some of these so-called “pill brokers” are motivated solely by greed and have no interest in the drug.

Missouri continues its dubious distinction as the nation’s meth capital. Our state led the nation in meth incidents in 2009 for the seventh consecutive year.

Missouri tracks and limits sales of cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine, but does not require a prescription.

The prescription proposal is expected to be debated by state lawmakers this session.

Existing efforts to restrict the supply of meth precursors have spawned a new illicit industry and fueled frustration.

We believe efforts to curb meth must be directed not only at the supply side of the equation, but also in the direction of demand.

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