The Bush administration is proposing a sweeping plan to choke off the flow of chemicals responsible for a steady rise in methamphetamine abuse, reports the Oregonian. The plan by the White House drug czar’s office, acknowledges that traffickers have circumvented existing rules and that “aggressive new approaches” may be needed. Federal regulators would impose new restrictions on the import of bulk ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, the main ingredients in meth. The government would estimate legitimate U.S. demand for cough and cold medicines made from the chemicals and cap imports at that amount. Officials would strengthen the system for monitoring the flow of chemicals from manufacturers in India, China, Germany, and the Czech Republic. Federal agencies would encourage drug makers to develop pseudoephedrine products that cannot be converted to meth. The plan calls on Congress to close a loophole that allows stores to sell unlimited quantities of pseudoephedrine pills in “blister packs.” Sales would be limited to 9 grams, or about 300 pills, at a time.
The White House plan comes three weeks after The Oregonian’s five-part series “Unnecessary Epidemic” concluded that an international strategy to deprive meth traffickers of their ingredients could roll back the tide of meth abuse. Meth cannot be made without ephedrine or pseudoephedrine. There are only nine major producers of these legal chemicals in the world, making meth traffickers uniquely vulnerable to government pressure.