Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Bust the Bad Guys (But Let the Innocent Breathe in Peace)

The House of Representatives has finished tucking an "anti-meth" provision into the Patriot Act that would follow the lead of states like Oklahoma on requiring pharmacies to document who buys what and how much of certain over-the-counter cold and allergy remedies.

As an allergy-afflicted Okie who has had first hand experience with a similar law, the Oklahomilist has something to say:

Go ahead and diminish the freedom of millions of allergy sufferers in this once great country while you pat yourselves on the back for your crime-busting savvy. You are so busy making us safe from every conceivable danger that you have forgotten the real meaning of freedom.

In Oklahoma each purchaser of legal OTC meds containing pseudophedrine must now show our drivers licenses and sign that we have made the purchase. Computer records allow the state to limit our consumption of these meds. Unhappily for yours truly, the amount the state "allows" me to purchase (out of the kindness of the Legislature's metaphorical black heart) is usually just enough to get through about 60% of the month. That means trying to get by on lesser legal products. (Not all allergy related products work on all people.)

This is Outrage No.1.

Outrage No.2 is that a purchaser of an otherwise legal product is made to feel like an outlaw. We wouldn't know the first thing about brewing meth -- hell, we barely made it through basic college chemistry -- and if we did know we wouldn't do it. Meth is an abomination, a sure fire ticket to hell on earth and early death.

But better to embarrass and humiliate millions of innocents on the off-chance that an illegal meth maker might be stopped from buy a couple boxes of Actifed from the pharmacist. Oh, but guess what: they still can. At least they aren't walking out of the store with them. All you had to do was move the goods behind the counter where the sticky fingered thieves couldn't get to it.

The American Pharmacy Association has raised serious doubts about the efficacy of the Oklahoma law (and others like it). The APA contends that the sheer quantity of pseudophedrine necessary to run a profitable meth operation generally argues against using legal purchases as a means of obtaining it.

But what the hey! What do pharmacists know about drugs and the people who buy them? Only a hell of a lot more than your Fred and Barney types who get elected to the state or federal legislatures.

Have evil meth labs decreased in Oklahoma? Probably, but remember that the drugs in question were put behind the counter at the same time the purchase limits and record keeping provisions were enforced. Theft by shop-lifting was the primary means of obtaining pseudophedrine before the new law. At least judging by the TV shots of the meth chefs who were busted in state, these were not people rolling in spare change. (Since many of them sampled their own cooking, they also could not be considered particularly bright.)

Putting a government-imposed limit on a citizen's purchase (hence usage) of allergy meds, just because there are a small number of allergy med abusers in the population, is about as sensible as requiring hardware dealers limit the sale and require registration of purchase of box cutters. Hey, box cutters were used by Islamic terrorists to hijack airliners on 9/11. We sure as hell don't want that to happen again. Let's make every Tim "the Toolman" Taylor feel like a criminal for even asking about a box knife.

Come on, guys! Freedom at its best is messy. A free people have the right to make good decisions AND bad decisions. The only way to keep people from hurting themselves is to put all the dangerous stuff behind bullet proof glass under lock and key, and to limit the freedom of choice to individuals so as to remove all dangerous choices. Freedom means that people are occasionally going to hurt themselves, and others. That's why we have paramedics and ambulances, and police and fire departments. We charge people with violating the law AFTER we catch them violating the law.

In a free society we consider people innocent until they are proven guilty in a court of law. We do not consider everyone potentially guilty of criminal behavior and assume that restraints are necessary to prevent the lawbreaking.

Outrage No. 3 is that retailers are making adjustments to their marketing strategy. Wal Mart, for instance, changed its generic Actifed product, Anihist, by switching to another active ingredient so that it could put it back on the floor. We tried a box. Maybe it works for someone else, but it didn't work for us. (The pharmacist just shook his head when we told him about it. "That's what we get when bureaucrats and marketing people put their heads together without bothering to ask us whether it's a good idea," he said.)

Is there an Outrage No. 4? You bet. It's simply this: The Patriot Act is no place for a law like this to be tucked away. What in Sam Hill does the desire to cut down on meth production have to do with protecting the United States from foreign Islamic terrorists? Are they trying to tell us that there are domestic Islamic terrorists mixing meth in an attempt to destroy the American people?

If, on the other hand, you are using the Patriot Act as a tool to progressively lessen the freedoms of Americans to make decisions for themselves, like the liberals are always squawking, then it makes perfect sense.

And it would make us perfectly angry. Cause we would sure hate to have to agree with the liberals on anything, but going for days at a time without adequate allergy medication is starting to wear down our resistance to the idea.


At 6:49 PM, Blogger The Phantom said...

Your blog is interesting and I have posted a link onto mine.


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