TERRE HAUTE —
Purchasing certain cold and allergy medicine to sell to methamphetamine cookers is a felony, and a new public education campaign was launched Tuesday to warn people about that practice, which is called “smurfing.”
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon met with area officials at the CVS Pharmacy at Seventh Street and Margaret Avenue on Tuesday to announce the public awareness campaign.
Smurfing is the criminal enterprise of purchasing cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine (PSE) to sell to meth cookers. Some people — such as college students and homeless people — are being recruited by meth cookers to purchase PSE products at retail stores and then resell the drug to the cooker for a high profit. PSE is the primary ingredient necessary to home cook highly addictive methamphetamine.
Zoeller said the anti-smurfing campaign will inform consumers through signage displayed at stores that smurfing is a criminal offense and that buying PSE products for a stranger can fuel Indiana’s meth problem.
“As a physician, I understand the critical nature of this problem,” said Bucshon, who noted that a few weeks ago, a clandestine meth lab exploded near his home in Newburgh in southern Indiana.
Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett noted that the city and the Wabash Valley have been battling the scourge of meth addiction and production for several years. He said he and other mayors have been trying to work with state agencies to get a handle on the meth problem, which consumes police resources and destroys families through addiction.
When asked about returning pseudoephedrine to its former status as a controlled substance to limit its public access, Zoeller said he has discussed that process with his “clients” — prosecutors and police officers around the state. However, he said he thinks that the anti-smurfing public awareness campaign is the “next best step.”
“This is still a good effort,” Zoeller said.
Bucshon said that Food and Drug Administration officials have been told that PSE cannot be considered a controlled substance because of its misuse. It is a safe drug on its own when used properly, he said.
Zoeller and Bucshon both said that making the drug available in Indiana by prescription-only is a effort that the Indiana legislature would have to undertake. Such legislation has been proposed in the past, but it has not been approved.
Joining Zoeller and Bucshon were representatives from the Indiana Retailers Council, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association and the Indiana Pharmacists Alliance. Lawe enforcement representatives lending their support were Terre Haute Police officers; Vigo County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Rob Roberts and Deputy Prosecutor Chris Wrede; and Sullivan County Prosecutor Bob Hunley.
“Law enforcement, prosecutors and our Legislature have all worked hard to crack down on the use and manufacturing of methamphetamine, and the fact is, more must be done” Zoeller said. “This public awareness campaign warns Hoosiers that purchasing pseudoephedrine for the purposes of either making meth or selling it to a meth cook is a crime. This joint initiative shows that state leaders are willing to join forces with the manufacturers of over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines to remind all Hoosiers: If you’re purchasing these items for a meth cook, you are breaking the law and you will be arrested.”
Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.