In a legislative session with its share of important issues in play — tax cuts, anyone? — few if any have generated more emotion than the debate over how best to curb methamphetamine production in Oklahoma. That was on display again Tuesday in the state House.
Members spent almost three hours debating two bills that took different approaches to attacking the problem at the front end — in pharmacies, where people can buy the cold and allergy medicines that contain the decongestant pseudoephedrine, the key ingredient in making meth.
House Bill 2808 by Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Hominy, would have required pharmacists to consider a person's history to determine whether there's a legitimate medical and pharmaceutical need for buying the drug. The idea seems reasonable. Pharmacists — particularly in eastern Oklahoma where meth abuse is especially problematic — often can tell whether a customer actually needs the medicine.
Rep. Don Armes, R-Faxon, was among those who argued that the bill represented “too much government. We're going too far.” But a colleague, Rep. Ben Sherrer, D-Chouteau, countered, “I'll take (saving) lives over runny noses and watery eyes any day.” The bill was defeated, in part, said Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, because of pressure from “a pretty slick dude” from Washington, D.C., who lobbied against it on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry.
Members then approved HB 2941 by Rep. David Derby, R-Owasso, which would tie Oklahoma's electronic tracking system for pseudoephedrine sales with 19 other states. As amended, the bill also would reduce the daily, monthly and yearly amounts of pseudoephedrine that a person could buy.
Derby, who debated against Roberts' bill, inadvertently amended his bill to say pharmacists “shall” refuse to sell pseudoephedrine to customers — essentially what Roberts wanted. Derby vowed to get that changed to “may” when the measure reaches the Senate.
Oklahomans may want to stay tuned. This debate shall continue, and loudly, for a good while.