Lawmakers Discuss Meth Restrictions

By: Mike Johnson
By: Mike Johnson

(MADISON)--How do you stop a dangerous illegal drug from spreading into Wisconsin?

That's an issue Wisconsin lawmakers take up Wednesday.

Police say methamphetamine already has a foothold in the state, and could get a lot worse.

Meth is a white odorless powder. Those who use it face a long list of problems like psychotic behavior, brain damage, and paranoia. It's also highly addictive.

“I really don't care whether I lived or died or whether my friends lived or died as long as I was high,” says 16-year old Maggie. She's a recovering meth addict.

It's a dangerous drug that's becoming more widespread.

“Meth is no longer just a club drug. Predominantly now being produced in rural communities in northwest Wisconsin, but it's a statewide problem," said Rep. Scott Suder.

The basic ingredient can be found in cold medicine that's sold just about anywhere.

It's called pseudo-ephedrine, and it’s usually listed as a nasal decongestant. It takes a few hundred cold pills and a variety of other easy to get chemicals to set up a lab. They're cheap and easy to build.

Just five meth labs were seized in 1999 in Wisconsin. In 2003, that number climbed to 101.

So how do you stop it? Part of the answer may be in limiting how much cold medicine you can buy and watching who buys it.

“We need to find a better tracking mechanism to allow businesses that do sell ephedrine based products to communicate more quickly with law enforcement so that we can track these purchases and stop the meth production before it actually is produced," said Rep. Suder.

One option is signing a log book whenever you buy cold medicine. That's part of a tough law in Oklahoma, but retailers here don't like it.

“We don't want to become the cold medicine police. We're already forced by the state to be the tobacco police," said Industry spokesman Brandon Scholz.

He says they are willing to put cold medication behind the counter, but they say Oklahoma's law is too restrictive.

"It has to be dispensed by a pharmacist behind the pharmacy counter. So you've gotta find a pharmacy that's open go see the pharmacist place your order, wait, write your name down,” said Scholz.

Representative Suder chairs a hearing on the subject Wednesday morning.

Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager is planning a summit on the problem next month.

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