The state is congratulating itself on its new pseudoephedrine tracking system that took effect this year. Why, it was working even before it began! And the measure of its effectiveness is that people have been prevented from purchasing pseudoephedrine products.

It goes without question that all those turned away were planning to use the stuff, often used to alleviate cold and allergies in a state known for its many allergy seasons, in their meth labs. So in just the law’s first 11 days, 1,600 meth-heads were cured, because if they can’t buy pseudoephedrine at the local grocery store, then they can’t make meth. Or so the assumption goes.

Laws waging a proxy war against the meth trade haven’t worked. All they have done instead is

  1. Put cold and allergy sufferers under criminal suspicion
  2. Make it much more difficult for them to alleviate their symptoms
  3. Further enrich Mexican narcotics labs
  4. Push meth users into new and ever more dangerous manners of producing meth

Items 1 and 2 and obvious on their face. For Item 3, I refer you to, e.g., Time Magazine’s  article of June 28, 2010, entitled “Mexico’s Meth Warriors,”’s discussion of same (see especially under the subhead “Mexico picks up the slack in the US meth trade“), and A. Barton Hinkle’s column last October in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “Got the sniffles? You must be a drug pusher.”

For Item 4, I refer you to Jacob Sullum’s warning and insight from January 2005 (emphasis added):

In October, just after Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski proposed retail-level restrictions on pseudoephedrine, The Oregonian ran a five-part series arguing that tracking sales by foreign manufacturers of the chemical is the only way to seriously curtail the methamphetamine trade. The newspaper cited brief declines in methamphetamine purity that followed previous attempts to block access to precursors. Such effects are short-lived, it said, because traffickers find new sources or shift to alternative production methods. After the precursor phenyl-2-propanone was restricted in 1980, traffickers switched to ephedrine; when large quantities of ephedrine became harder to come by in the late ’90s, they switched to pseudoephedrine.

And now with pseudoephedrine being restricted? Consider this AP story from today (emphasis added):

A crude new method of making methamphetamine poses a risk even to Americans who never get anywhere near the drug: It is filling hospitals with thousands of uninsured burn patients requiring millions of dollars in advanced treatment – a burden so costly that it’s contributing to the closure of some burn units.

So-called shake-and-bake meth is produced by combining raw, unstable ingredients in a 2-liter soda bottle. But if the person mixing the noxious brew makes the slightest error, such as removing the cap too soon or accidentally perforating the plastic, the concoction can explode, searing flesh and causing permanent disfigurement, blindness or even death.

The AP reports on the shockingly large proportion — up to one-third — of patients in burn units hurt by making meth, how their treatment costs about 60 percent more than other burn patients, how they’re usually uninsured, and how that all combines to cause some burn units to shut down.

In other words, thanks to the proxy meth war, cold and allergy sufferers not only find it harder to find relief of their symptoms, but they and everyone else are finding it harder to receive emergency treatment. (Though again, it’s good for business for Mexican crime families.)

Also known as the “one-pot” approach, the method is popular because it uses less pseudoephedrine – a common component in some cold and allergy pills. It also yields meth in minutes rather than hours, and it’s cheaper and easier to conceal. Meth cooks can carry all the ingredients in a backpack and mix them in a bathroom stall or the seat of a car.

The improvised system first emerged several years ago, partly in response to attempts by many states to limit or forbid over-the-counter access to pseudoephedrine. Since then, the shake-and-bake recipe has spread to become the method of choice.

By 2010, about 80 percent of labs busted by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration were using shake-and-bake recipes, said Pat Johnakin, a DEA agent specializing in meth.

So instead of a large lab that supplies many users, there are now more people making meth for their personal use.

Incidentally, they do this without even having to buy pseudoephedrine — or anything else, for that matter:

According to CBS affiliate KOTV, security personnel called 911 to report that a woman had gathered ingredients, including chemical drain cleaner and lithium, throughout the store, and was mixing them on a store shelf. They told police she had been in the store for six hours.

Police allege that Alisha Greta Halfmoon, 45, mixed two containers of sulfuric acid, and that one officer felt a burning sensation on his hand after touching some of it. Police did not find pseudoephedrine, a cold medication used to make meth.