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Originally published February 25, 2010 at 3:54 PM | Page modified March 8, 2010 at 11:11 PM

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Use every tool to fight meth

House Bill 2961 would create a statewide electronic tracking system for nonprescription drugs that can be used to make methamphetamine. Use every tool available to fight meth.

EFFORTS to fight the scourge of methamphetamine must be as nimble as the illicit efforts to manufacture the highly addictive drug. House Bill 2961 is the next step.

Legislation sponsored by Rep. Tom Campbell, R-Roy, would establish a statewide electronic tracking system for nonprescription sales of over-the-counter cold medicines, which contain the precursor drugs to produce meth.

Campbell led efforts in 2005 to change how products with ephedrine, pseudoephedrine and phenylpropanolamine are stored and sold. The changes accounted for a dramatic drop in meth-lab production.

The drug takes a grim human toll, and it creates a toxic mess that trashes rental property and outdoor settings where meth labs are discovered.

State law already limits daily purchases of the medicines, but HB 2961 tamps down the amount to fit federal limits. Most important, the legislation directs the state Board of Pharmacy to deploy a linked, real-time electronic sales-tracking system to replace current handwritten records that law-enforcement agencies find cumbersome.

Major retail chains have testified in support of the legislation, and the bill has enough lead time to give smaller stores and merchants in rural areas a chance to prepare.

The state cost is virtually nil, with startup costs covered by industry sources.

In the absence of a tracking system, Campbell says he will push to make those over-the-counter products only available via prescription, as Oregon has done.

An electronic registry at the checkout stand that creates a warning system for abuse of otherwise benign products is a logical step in a continuing fight against a soulless, illicit drug.

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