The Northern Virginia Daily's Political Depot

A service for our readers outside the Northern Shenandoah Valley... a sampling of The Daily's political coverage, plus unofficial, 'reporter's notebook' stuff. And occasional dry humor...

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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Friday, March 03, 2006

Some drug restrictions to continue; B6

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

RICHMOND — Virginia residents will be flashing their drivers licenses to buy Sudafed for the foreseeable future.
Emergency measures enacted by Gov. Mark R. Warner last year to curb the spread of methamphetamine got the stamp of approval from the General Assembly on Thursday.

The House of Delegates voted 92-7 in favor of an amended version of Senate Bill 146, a measure identical to another bill that won unanimous approval in the Senate on Wednesday.

Warner signed off on emergency measures last year that temporarily made it harder to sell the drug’s most common ingredient, the decongestant pseudoephedrine.

While those rules are set to expire this month, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has indicated he will sign the legislation to keep them in force.

Methamphetamine is a highly additive stimulant that can be manufactured using commonly available chemicals. The process is dangerous, though, and produces large quantities of hazardous waste.

Home- or vehicle-based labs often require hazardous materials teams to clean up sites after they’re seized by law enforcement.

Methamphetamine hasn’t become the epidemic problem for Virginia that it has been in other states, but most of the meth seized in the commonwealth is taken in the Shenandoah Valley, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

And the number of lab seizures has been growing — from one in 2000 to 61 in 2004, according to statistics compiled by the federal government.

“It’s unfortunate that it’s gotten to this point where we have to restrict consumer access to something that’s designed to help people” said Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, who voted with the rest of the Northern Shenandoah Valley delegation in favor of the bill.

Still, “nobody wants to see this stuff take hold in their communities.”

The bill didn’t pass without debate, though. Del. Dave Albo, R-Springfield, warned his colleagues that the bill would put common cold medicines in the same class as cigarettes and alcohol when it comes to purchasing.

“Your constituents will have to show ID to buy Sudafed,” he said, before voting with six other delegates against the bill.

Under the bills, drugs that contain only pseudoephedrine in tablet form must be kept behind a pharmacy or other counter and can only be sold after the buyer has produced a valid photo ID and signed a log book.

Combination drugs — such as combination pseudoephe-drine and antihistamine tab-lets — must be kept behind the counter, or kept under watch within a short distance of a staffed sales counter.

Pediatric medicines, as well as liquid or liquid-filled capsules, are exempt from the new requirements.

Methamphetamine has slowly been working its way east from the West Coast. Along the way, other states have adopted rules to try to stop it.

In Oklahoma, measures more restrictive than Virginia’s have resulted in an 80 percent drop in meth lab seizures, according to state officials.

Tennessee adopted similar, yet more restrictive rules, last year. In that state, purchasers of any drugs containing the decongestant have to sign a log which is submitted to the Highway Patrol, Tennessee’s state police agency.