MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Alabama Legislature has passed a bill designed to fight the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine by restricting where cold and allergy medicine containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine may be sold.
The bill passed the House 101-1 last month and the Senate 27-4 on Thursday. It now goes to Gov. Robert Bentley.
The governor was reviewing the bill before deciding whether to sign it, said his press secretary, Jennifer Ardis.
The bill is the latest of several passed in recent years to try to slow down meth production. According to national crime statistics, Alabama police found 665 locations where meth was being made in 2010.
"Alabama has an epidemic of meth in all 67 counties," Democratic Sen. Roger Bedford of Russellville said.
The bill's sponsor, Republican Rep. Blaine Galliher of Gadsden, said cold and allergy medicine with ephedrine or pseudoephedrine will be sold only in stores with pharmacies, and they will be kept behind the counter. Convenience stores and other small retailers will no longer stock the medicines.
Purchasers already have to show an ID to purchase the medicine, but the bill limits the permissible IDs to state-issued driver's license or non-driver IDs, military IDs and passports. The bill also reduces the amount that can be purchased in one month from 9 grams to 7.5 grams.
It continues a practice used since January 2011 of entering purchases into a database to prevent people from exceeding the monthly purchase limit. Consumers from states that require a prescription for the medicines, such as Mississippi, will be required to produce a prescription if they try to make a purchase in Alabama.
Cold and allergy medicine will still be available in plenty of locations, Galliher said.Comment on this story
"The effect of this bill on consumers will be minimal," he said.
Bedford tried to get the Senate to rewrite the bill to require a prescription because he said it was the safest way to keep the medicine from being used for producing meth. The Senate voted down his proposal 20-12. After losing on that issue, Bedford urged the Senate to approve Galliher's bill.
Nancy Dennis, spokeswoman for the Alabama Retail Association, said the organization supports Galliher's bill. She said it takes steps to keep the medicine from being used improperly but does not drive up costs for consumers by requiring a doctor's visit to get a prescription.
The National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators reports that the computer database tracking sales, called the National Precursor Log Exchange, resulted in blocking the sale of more than 19,500 boxes of medicine in Alabama in the first three months of 2012. The medicine contained more than 48,000 grams of the ingredients that could have been used for making meth.