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Cold medicine may be restricted to kids in meth fight

ST. PAUL -- Kids with colds would have to get their parents to buy them certain medicines under a plan to curb home-cooking of the drug methamphetamine.

ST. PAUL -- Kids with colds would have to get their parents to buy them certain medicines under a plan to curb home-cooking of the drug methamphetamine.

The state's top law enforcement officers said Friday that Minnesota needs to tighten controls on the household products that people use to make the highly addictive drug.

Under a proposed bill, over-the-counter cold tablets containing the common ingredients pseudoephedrine or ephedrine, would be moved from store shelves to behind counters. They couldn't be sold to anyone under 18, and adults couldn't buy more than two packages at a time. Clerks that violate the law could face misdemeanor charges.

It's to be offered by Republican Sen. Julie Rosen of Fairmont when the Legislature convenes in February. House Democrats have a related plan that could make adults who cook meth around children subject to child endangerment charges.

"This doesn't just keep us in the game, it allows us to take the fight to every possible front," said Tim O'Malley, assistant superintendent of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.


The proposal is also being backed by Rich Stanek, the commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, who is on leave from the Minneapolis Police Department. He said meth use was taking on epidemic proportions in the state.

The bill would stiffen penalties against meth makers and prevent the sale of homes or cars that have housed meth labs until they can be cleaned up.

Methamphetamine can be made in rudimentary labs out of common products including lye, lithium batteries and anhydrous ammonia, a common farm fertilizer. The process is dangerous and can leave toxic contamination.

Users feel euphoric and are quickly hooked. Addicts become paranoid, violent and unpredictable. The drug has gained a reputation as a rural drug, taking root in towns with little history of drug abuse. The labs are dangerous and the process is toxic.

Buzz Anderson, of the Minnesota Retaliers Association, said his group is concerned about trying to put so-called meth precursors behind the counter.

"You want the customers to be able to buy these things," he said. "It does become very problematic."

Still, he said, many larger stores already try to flag such sales. He said his group plans to work with Rosen.

The number of meth labs discovered in Minnesota soared to 400 last year, from 13 in 1995.


The plan would also:

- Increase the maximum penalty for the manufacture of meth to 10 years for a first offense.

- Require people convicted of manufacturing it to pay restitution.

- Create a revolving loan fund to help cities and counties clean lab sites.

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