Regulation of the Day 207: Cold Medicine

First drain cleaner, now cold medicine. These are lousy times for Illinoisians with sluggish drains and runny noses. Just as they are now required to present valid ID when buying drain cleaner, the people of Illinois have had to do the same thing since 2009 when buying cold medicine. But according to a bill signed into law Friday, “Now stores will transmit those records electronically to state police. The information sent to authorities will include the customer’s name and address.”

No person may buy “more than 7.5 grams of pseudoephedrine in 30 days — or more than a month’s supply of 24-hour Claritin-D for a single person.” Stores must refuse such sales.

Everyone catches a cold now and then. Which means almost everyone buys cold medicine now and then. Which means this database will basically have Illinois’ entire 13-million strong population within a year or two. This is a rather wide net.

The goal is to put a damper on methamphetamine production. The regulation is easy to evade, though. Instead of one person buying large amounts of medicine, several people can buy smaller amounts. Or our drug-addled friends can take a short drive to Indiana, Wisconsin, or another border state. Or they could make meth from different ingredients. Or they could switch to a different drug entirely. The total net impact on drug production and consumption is likely to be almost precisely zero. The legislature clearly didn’t think this one through; prohibition doesn’t work.

This regulation is something else besides ineffective. It also reveals an ugly attitude that no state should have towards its people, that everyone is a suspect. Talk about adding insult to illness.