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Anti-meth bill will die in state Senate, backer blames drug, retail industry lobbying

CARSON CITY – A bill that sought to make it harder for illegal drug manufacturers and abusers to get ingredients for crystal meth won’t advance in the Legislature.

Senate Bill 203 by Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, would have made certain cold medicines that are used to make crystal meth prescription only couldn’t overcome opposition by Nevada retailers and major drug companies.

Leslie said she pulled the bill because it was clear it didn’t have the votes to pass the Senate.

She blamed drug company and retail lobbying in opposition to the bill, which she said threatened to cut into money legal drug makers earn from sales to crystal meth producers.

“They have thrown up a lot of diversionary tactics to protect their black market sales,” Leslie said.

The bill would have required customers to have a prescription from a doctor to buy cold medicines that contain ephedrine, pseudoephedrine or phenylpropanolamine.

Medicines with those ingredients are sold only in limited quantities from behind the counter at pharmacies and require buyers to sign a registry because of a law approved during the 2007 legislative session.

Adding the prescription requirement, Leslie said, would reduce instances of "smurfing," the practice of buying as much product as the law allows at one pharmacy before moving on to another and using an assumed name to buy more.

Bryan Wachter, a lobbyist for the Retail Association of Nevada, said only 2 percent of the products in question end up in the black market and the remaining 98 percent “are going to law abiding citizens who we think shouldn’t be presumed guilty when they have allergies or a cold.”

Wachter said if the bill had been enacted it would have increased the cost of getting the medication from $12 over the counter to about $110, which he said included the cost of going to a doctor for a prescription.

The bill was in the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services and faced a Friday deadline to clear committee or die on the vine.

“I pulled it because it was clear to me the votes weren’t there in the Senate to pass the bill,” Leslie said. “I didn’t want to force a vote.”

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