Prosecutors to seek ban on over-the-counter pseudoephedrine

Prosecutors urged Indiana legislators Wednesday to ban over-the-counter sales of a common cold medicine used to make methamphetamine and to stiffen sentences for convicted drug dealers.

The Association of Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys said of the two proposals it is seeking for the upcoming session, its top priority is a change in state law requiring a doctor's prescription to purchase pseudoephedrine.

Lawmakers have rejected proposals for similar bans in recent years, but House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, recently changed his position on the issue and said he'll probably back such a ban.

Prosecutors see both proposals as a way to fight violent crime.

"There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that violent crime is tied to drug trafficking," Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said.

Washington County Prosecutor Dustin Houchin said restricting sales of pseudoephedrine—a key meth ingredient — would help crack down on the number of meth labs in Indiana.

"We don't contend this will solve the meth-taking problem in our state, but we believe it will solve the meth-making problem," Houchin said.

Opponents say the measure is punitive and argue that a universal ban would create a costly inconvenience for law-abiding allergy sufferers and burden overwhelmed doctors during busy cold and flu seasons. They say a ban would force those who are sick to visit a doctor just to fight a common cold—a cost the government would have to pay through Medicare or Medicaid.

They also say it would merely lead meth makers to cross state lines to purchase pseudoephedrine.

Houchin acknowledged some people will likely travel over state lines to get pseudoephedrine and bring it back. But he said it would be enough of an obstacle that it will be effective. He added that the overall detrimental impact of methamphetamine "is far greater than the cost of someone to go to their doctor and obtain a prescription."

Critics also question the efficacy of the measure because they say Mexican drug cartels are increasingly taking hold of the market with meth manufactured in Mexico.

Prosecutors say that may be true, but they counter that by cracking down on local meth-making, they can better focus their attentions on the cartels.

The other measure being sought by prosecutors would create a new category of crime of "aggravated drug dealing."

Aaron Negangard, the prosecutor for Dearborn and Ohio counties, said the Legislature's revamp of the criminal code, which went into effect in 2014 is too soft on drug dealers.

"The code isn't currently dealing with this problem," said Negangard, who added that the "War on Drugs" was successful.

Under the proposal, anyone convicted of dealing 10 grams or more of a hard drug like heroin, cocaine or meth could be sentenced to 10 to 30 years in prison. But the proposal also includes provisions that would impose the same penalty for those caught with smaller quantities if they have a gun, sell to a minor, or if children are present.

"We need to be able to say, 'This is a bad guy and this bad guy needs to go to prison,'" Negangard said.


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