Oklahoma agency blocks sales of meth element

BY JOHNNY JOHNSON Modified: April 19, 2010 at 6:31 am •  Published: April 19, 2010
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Since November, when the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs added a "date of birth” requirement to better track sales of pseudoephedrine at pharmacies, drug enforcement agents have seen the number of denials grow from about 2,000 per month to 7,000 per month, OBN spokesman Mark Woodward said.

"Most of these were blocked because they had an Oklahoma driver’s license that was not in our system or had a name that did not match the date of birth, ” he said.

As of last week, OBN had managed to block 35,000 over-the-counter sales that might have been used to produce methamphetamine, the state official said.

OBN Director Darrell Weaver admits the number of denials sounds high, and he said he had some initial concerns about balancing drug law enforcement against government intrusion.

So far, however, OBN has not received "an overabundance” of calls or complaints about the denials, which drug watchdogs to believe that those blocks actually stopped illegal sales, Weaver said.

Birthday check
Before Nov. 1, anyone who wanted to buy pseudoephedrine at a pharmacy had to show an ID with birthdate, but the date-of-birth information wasn’t really used in the screening process.

As state agents began to see an uptick in new "shake-and-bake” one-pot meth labs, which is a method of production that uses smaller amounts of the cold remedy pills, OBN decided they needed to do more to keep the drug away from those who might abuse it.

Before Nov. 1, a pseudoephedrine purchase required either a driver’s license, a state-issued ID, a military ID or a passport. And the numbers on each were recorded with each sale with the intention to limiting single-sale purchases to less than 3.2 grams and monthly purchases to less than 9 grams.

On Nov. 1, OBN began the initiative to only sell pseudoephedrine to state residents who had valid Oklahoma driver’s licenses or identification. Military IDs, passports and out of state driver’s licenses are no longer acceptable, Woodward said.

And the name and the birthday on the state-issued ID better match up, he said, or the purchase will be flagged for denial.