The new anti-meth law: Truth and consequences

August 7, 2006

Retailers who fail to comply with a new federal law on methamphetamine can be fined up to $25,000 and jailed for up to two years. Furthermore, if a state or local requirement conflicts with the federal requirement, retailers must comply with the most stringent version. So warned Kevin N. Nicholson, R.Ph., J.D., VP-pharmacy regulatory affairs, National Association of Chain Drug Stores, at the association's Marketplace Conference, held in San Diego recently.

Retailers who fail to comply with a new federal law on methamphetamine can be fined up to $25,000 and jailed for up to two years. Furthermore, if a state or local requirement conflicts with the federal requirement, retailers must comply with the most stringent version. So warned Kevin N. Nicholson, R.Ph., J.D., VP-pharmacy regulatory affairs, National Association of Chain Drug Stores, at the association's Marketplace Conference, held in San Diego recently.

The law classifies all nonprescription pseudoephedrine (PSE), ephedrine (EPH), and phenylpropanolamine (PPA) products- including gel caps, liquids, and pediatrics-into a new category under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) as "scheduled listed chemical products." Prescribed PSE, EPH, and PPA are exempt from federal requirements, and purchasers are not required to give identification or sign a log to purchase 60 mg or less of PSE. However, all affected products must be stored behind a counter or in a locked cabinet.

One consumer cannot purchase more than 3.6 gm of any of the listed products in one calendar day nor more than 9 gm in a 30-day period.

Employers must provide training to all employees who deal directly with purchasers; DEA will develop the content. Each site will certify that all relevant employees have been trained (DEA is working out certification details), and periodic recertification will be necessary. Employers may take reasonable measures to guard against employing persons who might present a risk with respect to the theft and diversion of EPH, PSE, and PPA, e.g., asking employee applicants whether they have been convicted of any crime involving controlled substances.

There also will be restrictions on mail-order purchases. Sellers must confirm the identities of purchasers, and sales to an individual will be limited to 7.5 gm per 30-day period. DEA is working out the details of enforcement of mail-order restrictions.

Retailers are subject to penalties if they: knowingly exceed the daily sales limits to an individual; sell a nonliquid product in something other than a blister package or unit-dose package; fail to keep affected products behind a counter or in a locked cabinet; do not follow logbook and recordkeeping requirements; fail to comply with logbook privacy restrictions; do not require purchaser ID; do not comply with employee training requirements; or refuse to provide logbook information to law enforcement.

In addition to fines and jail time, a seller found to have violated the law can be prohibited from selling any of the scheduled listed chemical products.

With retailers having to pay close attention to state and local meth laws as well as federal law, "it's a difficult challenge for retailers to make sure they comply with basically three different layers of regulations," said Nicholson. As of June, at least 36 states have laws that are in some way more restrictive than the federal law (see box).

State laws are summarized on the NACDS Web site: http:// http://www.nacds.org/user-assets/PDF_files_Meth_Law_Chart.pdf. Hundreds of localities have their own methampheta-mine ordinances, and some-but not all-are summarized on the NACDS Web site: http:// http://www.nacds.org/user-assets/PDF_files/Local.pdf.

It is advisable for anyone in any state to become familiar with their state and local laws. Nicholson suggested obtaining a legal consult if the regulations of two or more levels of government conflict.

THE AUTHOR is a writer bsed in San Diego.