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Pseudoephedrine Issue Resurfaces Briefly, To Be Tabled Again

Remember Springfield’s proposed prescription requirement for pseudoephedrine?

One of the more hot-button topics in recent Springfield City Council history made a brief appearance at Monday’s meeting, ultimately emphasizing how greatly the issue has changed in less than two years.

A popular over-the-counter sinus medication, pseudoephedrine is a key ingredient needed to manufacture methamphetamine. A bill requiring a prescription to acquire it was proposed in the fall of 2012 as an effort to curb meth labs and related activities in the city. The measure was supported by Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams

By spring 2013, it appeared the bill had enough votes to pass council. But newly elected members changed the make-up of the council, and the tide began to shift in favor of those who saw the prescription requirement as a burden on not just those making meth, but law-abiding citizens as well.

After delaying a vote multiple times, council voted in August 2013 to table the measure — until June 2014. Several members said they wanted to see if the state legislature — whose session runs from January to May — might act on the issue.

The legislature didn’t. And, City Clerk Brenda Cirtin noted at Monday’s meeting, June 2014 is here.

"Staff is just needing some direction from council," she said. "Do you wish for that bill to appear back on your agenda at the next meeting, or did you wish to go ahead and postpone discussion on that bill or action on that bill indefinitely?"

Months after fading away from being a priority, the measure was up again.

"Well, that brings us to an interesting crossroads here," said Councilman Doug Burlison, who has historically objected to the proposed requirement.

In the fall, Councilwoman Cindy Rushefsk asked Williams to provide monthly reports to council, detailing meth lab activity in the city. Rushefsky pitched it as a way for council to stay informed on the issue; Burlison saw it "as an attempt to educate us to have different opinions."

But the monthly reports — one of which was presented at the start of Monday’s meeting — showed fewer and fewer meth labs being found in the city.

That’s not necessarily as good as it sounds. As recently reported by the News-Leader, despite the apparent halt of local production, Springfield police continue to find and seize meth at historic levels. Mexican drug organizations, according to law enforcement sources, are flooding the area with a better, cheaper product. Why cook it when you can buy it?

Councilman Craig Fishel noted the trend at Monday’s meeting.

"I think we’re down to less than five labs for the year, and I would propose that we … leave it tabled with the understanding that if we see an increase, it could be readdressed," he said. "But at this point, the meth isn’t come from labs, it’s coming from other places — Mexico."

Rushefsky, historically the proposed requirement’s largest supporter, seconded Fishel’s motion.

With a voice vote, the council members tabled the bill indefinitely. It can be brought up again if there is a "significant increase" in meth labs found in the city.

"We can leave that at the chief’s discretion," Rushefsky said. "When he feels there’s a need."