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Technology key in bill targeting meth

Missouri should be using technology to help track the sale and possession of methamphetamine precursor drugs, the House Judiciary Committee was told during a public hearing Wednesday.

“The purpose of this bill is to make real time technology in Missouri more usable in the distribution and abuse of pseudoephedrine,” said Rep. Stanley Cox, the sponsor of the bill, which includes pseudoephedrine-purchasing limits, stricter sentences for certain meth-related crimes and improvements to the state’s electronic tracking system used for tracking pharmacy purchases of medications containing drugs such as pseudoephedrine.

“What we really need is the balancing of the availability of pseudoephedrine with the system currently in place and making it better with the electronic tracking system by broadening the system to include other states,” said Cox, R-Sedalia.

A provision in Cox’s bill would also require someone who has pleaded guilty or has been convicted of any felony drug crime to obtain a prescription for any medication containing pseudoephedrine.

Supporters of the bill believe it would assist in getting some of the pseudoephedrine product off the streets.

Rep. Galen Higdon, R-St. Joseph, brought up the idea of “muling” or “smurfing,” which is when an individual or group goes from one store to another purchasing enough pseudoephedrine to make meth. Higdon was referring to “smurfing” as when one individual must buy pseudoephedrine for another because of purchasing limits.

Ron Fitzwater, CEO of the Missouri Pharmacy Association, said the issue is something that needs to be considered.

Another representative posed the concern of pharmacists being forced to act like detectives when deciding whether or not to sell an individual a pseudoephedrine product.

Cox assured the committee the provisions of the bill would not be a burden upon pharmacists in any way. He said pharmacists have applauded the efforts.

Rep. Gina Mitten, D-St. Louis, worried the purchasing limits would hinder her from being able to buy enough pseudoephedrine products for her family’s allergies.

“I can assure you, this still gives the ability to provide some for themselves (parent), as well as their family,” Fitzwater said.

Cox believes all of the measures included in the bill “will provide retailers and police officers with a greater capability for stopping meth production crimes before they happen.”

“It’s certainly an issue of concern for all of us,” he said.

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