Pittsburg Kansas weighs limit on key meth ingredient

PITTSBURGH, Kan. (AP) — The city of Pittsburg may join neighboring communities in southeast Kansas and southwest Missouri that require prescriptions for a decongestant that’s also a key ingredient in methamphetamine.

Pittsburg’s lack of a prescription ordinance for pseudoephedrine has made the city an “island” where pharmacies sell more of the popular cold and allergy medicine than in larger cities like Emporia, Police Chief Mendy Hulvey told the city commission at a recent special session on the issue.

“To an allergy sufferer, there’s no better drug to treat your symptoms. The downside is it’s absolutely essential to making methamphetamine. There is no other way to make it,” Hulvey said.

Missouri communities that require prescriptions include Joplin, Branson and Springfield. In southeast Kansas, prescriptions are required in Chanute, Parsons, Girard, Arma, Iola, Baxter Springs, Galena, Columbus, Fort Scott and all of Cherokee County.

Hulvey said the problem is not pharmacy customers who buy pseudoephedrine for their own use, but so-called “smurfs” — straw buyers for meth makers who purchase the monthly legal maximum of 9 grams per month at one store, then at others in the region.

Hulvey acknowledged that requiring residents to get a doctor’s prescription for pseudoephedrine would be an inconvenience, but contended it would help police fight what she called the city’s “huge” meth problem.

“As an organization, officers come to me and say, ‘Chief, we believe this is critical. We believe this is critical to our investigation. We want to focus on midlevel drug dealers, not low-level cooks that take all (our) time,'” Hulvey said.

Cherokee County Sheriff David Groves told the Pittsburg officials his county typically had 35 to 45 meth busts a year before passing a prescription-only law 11 months ago. His agency has found only four meth labs since then, he said.

The city of Joplin also has seen a decline in meth labs since passing its law, according to Hulvey, who said meth use is often connected to property crime.

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