A proposed ordinance in central Iowa could become the model for a new state law aimed at legal drugs that can be used to make the illegal drug methamphetamine. Tom Hockensmith chairs the Polk County Board of Supervisors, which voted Tuesday to require retailers and pharmacists to keep medications containing pseudoephedrine behind the counter. Hockensmith says his experience is that “we have an epidemic” of meth use in Polk county and says he’s personally seen the trouble it’s caused families. It the board also gives second- and third-round approval to the ordinance, by April sniffling customers might have to show I.D. and sign a log when buying their favorite cold remedy. Polk City pharmacist Jerry Karbeling says it’s a huge burden for retailers. The Pharmacist calls it an “impossibility” without major change, and says the availability and selection of merchandise would change a lot as well as the access to those products. Karbeling calls pseudoephedrine a very effective product, almost the only decongestant available and key in treating both adults and children. He calls it a key part of over-the-counter appropriate medication use. He says the pharmacists want to make sure people retain access to the medication. Karbeling is also head of the Iowa Pharmacy Association. He says the trade group fears many cities and counties will try writing their own rules to restrict the sale of the legal medications, but says it’ll simply drive customers to the next community. He recommends a state law to tackle the problem. Polk County attorney John Sarcone says his office got tired of waiting on state lawmakers.Sarcone says when the state had the chance to act last year, the legislature “passed the weakest law it could pass.” So he says if local action saves one life, “We’re going to be miles ahead.” Meanwhile Ken Carter, the director of the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement, says he hopes the Polk County board’s vote sets an example for state lawmakers to follow in restricting pseudoephedrine sales. Carter says Oklahoma did, and that state saw dramatic results. Carter says the latest figure he’s seen points to an 80-percent reduction in meth labs statewide from Oklahoma’s law, and adds anything we can do to reduce meth labs if “very, very important.” In 2004, Carter says his office recorded 13-thousand-69 meth labs in the state, an increase of sixteen-percent from the year before. He says the number will grow again in the next year if there aren’t new restrictions on the “precursor” chemicals used to make the drug. Second reading for the ordinance before the Polk County Board is next Tuesday.
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