Sheriff: New prescription law is hindered by state border

Published 12:29 am Thursday, January 6, 2011

NATCHEZ — The hassle behind the 6-month-old law requiring a prescription for cold and sinus medicine containing pseudoephedrine outweighs the minor benefits in halting methamphetamine production, at least in Southwest Mississippi, Adams County’s highest ranking law enforcement official said.

Sheriff Chuck Mayfield said the law that went into effect July 1, requiring people to visit a doctor to get a prescription for pseudoephedrine-based medicine, which is the primary ingredient in producing methamphetamine, does little to stop those seeking to make meth in Natchez-Adams County.

Mayfield said bordering Louisiana, which does not have such a law, makes the new law only a minor inconvenience to those looking to get pseudoephedrine-based medicine such as Sudafed.

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“They can go right across the river and buy the same thing,” Mayfield said. “That said, it does shut off one source.”

Though he doesn’t attribute it to the new law, Mayfield said methamphetamine cases have been down in the last six months. From Jan. 1 to June 31, ACSO deputies responded to eight meth cases, including three meth labs. From July 1 to Dec. 31, 2010, deputies responded to six cases and no meth labs were broken up.

“The fact is, there are not that many meth labs around here,” Mayfield said. “And when the ones that are here see an onslaught (on meth labs), the remaining labs will often go out of business.”

Mayfield said area meth labs are typically small operations that are not producing mass quantities. Most of the meth in the area is being smuggled from Mexico, Mayfield said.

Metro Narcotics Commander David Lindsey said there are a select group of people who will produce meth for personal use locally.

“They shake and bake it in a Coke bottle,” Lindsey said.

Mayfield said he would have preferred enforcing the old law.

“I think the problem lies in enforcement and punishment of laws we already have, rather than making more laws that put honest people at a disadvantage,” Mayfield said. “You make it harder for honest people to get medicine, just because some people abuse it.

“We should be pu0tting the abusers in jail and keeping them there.”

Lindsey said Oregon and Mississippi are the only two states that require a prescription for cold and sinus medicine containing pseudoephedrine. Some municipalities in Missouri require a prescription.

The head of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, Marshall Fisher, who led the push for the legislation, believes the law is a positive.

“Early results show a nearly 70-percent reduction in meth-related cases statewide,” Fisher said in a press release.

Figures from the MBN indicate officers responded to 389 meth labs from July to December 2009, a 68-percent reduction from the 124 meth lab cases from July to December 2010.

Before, pseudoephedrine was tracked through a law that required the buyer to show identification.

Fisher said in the press release other states are looking to follow Mississippi’s lead on passing the same law.