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6:54 pm
Wed March 28, 2012

Meth bill clears senate subcommittee

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Cold and allergy sufferers in Oklahoma will have their identities and birth dates entered into a searchable database when they purchase certain cold medications under a bill targeting illegal meth production that was approved Wednesday by a Senate panel. TZhe bill approved by the Senate subcommittee requires pharmacies to track sales of products containing pseudoephed rine, a key ingredient used to make meth. The names would be entered into a database searchable by law enforcement and linked to 19 other states that operate a similar tracking system, said Sen. Rick Brinkley, the Senate sponsor of the bill. The law also gives pharmacists the authority to deny a sale if they determine there is not "a legitimate medical and pharmaceutical need for the drug." Az "The intent is to have one of the toughest meth laws in the country," said Brinkley, R-Owasso. The bill also further restricts how much pseudoephedrine products a person can buy each month, from nine grams to 7.1 grams. The law would also impose a new daily limit of 3.4 grams. Some members of the committee raised concerns that the bill places too many mandates on pharmacists and makes it more difficult for law abiding citizens to purchase a legal product. "Are we just making life tougher for all 3.6 million of the rest of us?" asked Sen. Steve Russell, R-Oklahoma City. The proposal is a compromise reached with representatives of drug companies after lawmakers killed separate measures that would have required a prescription to purchase products containing pseudoephedrine. The prescription requirement was supported by the state's law enforcement community and all of the district attorneys, but it was derailed after a group representing drug companies launched a campaign against it. Police and prosecutors say the two other states that have implemented prescription only laws, Oregon and Mississippi, have seen the number of meth labs drop dramatically. But drug companies maintain the laws would pose an unnecessary financial hardship on consumers. A, a powerful and highly addictive illegal stimulant, has long been a problem in Oklahoma, which is consistently ranked as one of the top states in the country for number of meth lab seizures per year. The problem has surged in recent years in large part because of a new "shake-and-bake" method of cooking the drug that requires only a small amount of pseudoephedrine and some easy-to-obtain ingredients that can be cooked in a 2-liter bottle on the run. ___ Online: House Bill 2941: http://is.gd/dkg0tL ___ Sean Murphy can be reached at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy