People familiar with the drug methamphetamine and its production know that it can be made using many products that can be found at your typical household. One of the key ingredients of methamphetamine is pseudoephedrine, which is found in many cold pills such as Sudafed. Once police realized that these cold medicine products were flying off of the shelves at pharmacies and grocery stores and making their way to methamphetamine labs, police agencies and legislatures started making and enforcing laws to try to make it more difficult for people to buy pseudoephedrine in large volumes. As a result, cold medicines containing pseudophedrine are no longer out on the shelves for anyone to purchase. They are kept in a locked container and/or behind the counter requiring the assistance of a store employee to retrieve them. Also, there are limits on the number of pseudoephedrine products a person can buy at any given time, and everyone buying pseudoephedrine products must show identification and sign a register. In some states, that information is entered into a statewide computer database for tracking. That way, when police are investigating methamphetamine manufacturing cases, they have a quick and easy source to determine who may be supplying one of the most important ingredients in the production of methamphetamine.
A recent article by the Associated Press looked into whether these laws have been effective in curbing the manufacture of methamphetamine. The article concluded that not only have the laws not reduced methamphetamine production, but production has increased recently. Additionally, as anyone with a historical perspective would expect, a black market has developed where people are acquiring large quantities of pseudoephedrine products and selling them to methamphetamine manufacturers at a premium. Because the laws have artificially affected the supply and demand, pill brokers are using various people to go store to store to buy pseudoephedrine pills for $7 to $8 per box and then selling them for $40 to $50 per box.
Despite the laws and with the assistance of the pseudoehopedrine black market, methamphetamine related activity (including arrests, seizures and discoveries of meth labs) was up 34% in 2009. Methamphetamine related activity increased more in the states that require electronic tracking of pseudoephedrine purchases. People in the black market and those involved in meth production are enlisting the help of friends, family members and customers to acquire pseudoephedrine pills- a practice known as “smurfing”. In that way, the laws have resulted in more people being involved in the production of methamphetamine while in the past methamphetamine production required fewer people.
There is a valid argument to be made that not only have the methamphetamine tracking laws not reduced methamphetamine production, they have helped to increase the number of people involved in methamphetamine production.