Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Where does the list go?

Early this morning I proceeded, as is my morning custom, to the Sanitary Drugstore for morning coffee with several other men of White Pine. Town gossip-political and otherwise- is the real reason for these morning gatherings, and they occurred long before I ever arrived on the scene around here. Everyone meets down at the drugstore around 8:30 or so. Some began their constitutional in the back of the hardware store and moved over to the Sanitary, while others just came straight to the old drugstore counter.

Each morning when we gather, we all get there at about the same time (sometimes the drugstore opens late, as it did this morning), but leaving is another matter. Most of us stagger out one at a time or in small groups as we finish with what we deem to be our portion of the coffee and conversation. Usually one or two of the guys and I will get on a hot topic and be there for a bit longer than others-this morning I was the last to leave. As I was finishing up my coffee and cleaning up, I noticed a large white truck that looked a bit like a small fire engine pull up to the drugstore and a nice fella get out. I couldn't help but overhear that he was having a conversation with the pharmacist in the back of the store that sounded jovial and friendly, and I couldn't tell what was being said but I did hear something about a book. The side of the truck said "TENNESSEE METHAMPHETAMINE LAB TASK FORCE."

I made the mistake of parking my chair too far away from the pharmacy door this morning, and so this gentleman was kind enough to help me step down to get to it. He had a list in his hand-the list of those who buy medications such as Sudafed, which possesses a base ingredient of meth. By law now in Tennessee, pharmacists must make those who purchase those over-the-counter drugs which may contain the ingredients for methamphetamines.

Meth use is the plague of small-town America, and especially the rural South. We are fortunate in communities like the one where I live to enjoy relatively low crime-but but a good deal of the serious crime we do have can be traced to drugs, and usually that means meth use and distribution. I am glad to see that the State is taking a serious and proactive role in addressing this very real problem. I have to admit that I question this particular means, however.

I asked the man with the truck if the list was what I thought it was, and he confirmed that I was correct. I was then forced to ask questions in my mind:

What happens to this list of names when this guy gets where he is going with it?

I am sure that addresses are on the list, and perhaps phone numbers-is this really a registry of who takes certain over-the-counter medicines?

The State of Tennessee gets to know who in White Pine takes what medicine, whether that is the intent of the law or not. Do I like that idea?

Who gets this list and where do the names go? Do people call these folks?

Do the people on the list all become suspects or persons of interest because they bought NyQuil or Sudafed? Does someone go scope out their house to determine if it is a meth lab?

Is this Constitutional?

Some of these questions may indeed seem far-fetched, but when a State agent (even a very friendly one) comes to the local drugstore and takes a list of names from the place, a conscientious citizen concerned about the maintenance of their liberty really ought to be asking them.

If this is all proven at some point to be Constitutionally suspect (and I must admit that I think it may very well be), we need a backup plan to deal with the meth problem in our rural communities aside from a list of names and addresses of likely-innocent citizens.

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At Wednesday, May 09, 2007 3:38:00 PM, Anonymous Renee Daley said...


Ohio has the same law. I purchased an cold product with the amphetimine in it - I had to fill out a registry slot with name, phone number and address at the pharmacy counter before I could purchase the product or leave the store. Nevermind the inconvience of having to go to the counter and ask for Sudafed.

I think all the questions you pose - are logical and sensible. It seems that we must keep giving up a little slice of our freedom to save us from ourselves. Matt disagrees that things such as this can not be helped That we cannot have limitless or unlimited freedom. However, I say when does it stop? If the local, state and federal governments keep chipping away at our personal freedoms in the name of safety and security - we'll have none left.

And that is a slippery slope to start down, and a path I'd rather stay off of.

At Wednesday, May 09, 2007 5:41:00 PM, Anonymous Bill Hobbs said...

I wonder, given yesterday's flap over the publication of the handgun-carry permit database, if the sudafed purchase list is public record.

At Thursday, May 10, 2007 5:59:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I worked in a pharmacy. usually everyone arrested for making meth, can be found in those little books. It does help locate it. It's the law. A pharmacy has to hand over that book or face a fine themselves. It's a hassle. But I would rather have my name in a book, than have my child or grandchild be able to buy meth from the guy next door.

At Thursday, May 10, 2007 2:11:00 PM, Blogger Dave Oatney said...

Your concerns are the same ones that I share. I don't think anyone who lives in an area where meth is prevalent doesn't want to stop its spread-thing is, so far the law has not been effective in stopping the manufacture or distribution of meth.

It is frightening that our purchases can now be tracked by the State in this way. Those who favor such regulation often do so with the mentality that government will never abuse such power-I am not so trusting of the State.

If the records are public, that is even more scary-you have to hope that they are not-who buys Sudafed is none of the general public's business. These lists tend to make suspects out of perfectly innocent people if that is the case.

At Thursday, May 10, 2007 9:42:00 PM, Blogger Renee said...

Anytime the government has lists compiled, it is never a good thing. None of the laws created to keep this stuff off the street ever work. As you said, it only makes a innocent people suspects.

It is so frightening, that people are so willing to just part with their freedoms. The United States will become an Orwellian-like society if this type of thing keeps happening. As long as there is no public outcry, it will never stop.

And you can forget about the ACLU wanting to get involved. The group that selectively defends the Constitution of the United States. They're too busy defending groups like NAMBLA and people who want freedom from religion.

At Friday, May 11, 2007 12:21:00 AM, Blogger Matt Daley said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At Friday, May 11, 2007 12:29:00 AM, Blogger Matt Daley said...

I understand that this issue creates concerns, but doesn't any type of government regulation/intervention?

For all of us to be as free as possible, we all have to give up some level of freedom and privacy. Obviously, we have to be vigilant and should have the power to strike that balance, but there simply must be one lest one group's freedoms become greater than another's.

Also, the trustworthiness of government should be a separate issue and desparately needs to be fixed. In order to strike a proper balance between the needs of society and individual freedom, we have to be able to trust our governments to help strike that balance. Without that trust, the specific issue is really irrelevant.

I think the bottom line here is that the idea behind the regulation serves a positive, necessary purpose. If the law is ineffective, then it needs to be re-written, but it doesn't need to disappear entirely. We can't hide our heads in the sand and hope that these drug problems will go away by themselves -- they won't. Certain amounts of government attention must be had; it should be sane and effective, but it is necessary.

At Friday, May 11, 2007 12:03:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The sudefed law is not public record. Only law enforcement are allowed to review it.


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