Keep on Pushing That Boulder, Sisyphus
Before I get into the meat of this post, I should introduce myself because I am the new guy around here. My name is John Payne, and I am the Show-Me Institute’s newest research assistant. I graduated from Washington University in 2005 with a B.A. in history and then moved just down the road to attend Webster University for my teacher certification. I taught social studies for a year at East Carter County High School before I decided it was not for me, and left to pursue a career in writing, which brings us right up to the present.
My first Show-Me Daily post, appropriately enough, deals with my hometown, Poplar Bluff, and its never-ending quest to banish that devil methamphetamine. From Poplar Bluff’s Daily American Republic:
A request by police chief Danny Whiteley to adopt an ordinance requiring the sale of products containing pseudoephedrine by prescription only was moved by the Poplar Bluff City Council to its Dec. 21 voting session.
Whiteley told council members Monday night the proposed ordinance is based on one enacted July 6 in Washington, Mo.
“This will give our city another tool to fight the ongoing battle against methamphetamine in Poplar Bluff and Butler County. We are all aware of the destructive nature it has on society, families and our children,” Whiteley said. “Adopting this ordinance would be a significant step in thwarting the individuals who manufacture methamphetamine in our area.”
Back in October, my co-blogger Chaya Kristen Chopra pointed out that a similar ban in Union, Mo., would force people with nasal problems to seek out expensive prescriptions for what is for most people a very common problem. I would add that given the expense — both in time and money — of a doctor’s visit, most people would simply be inclined to drive to a neighboring town to purchase pseudoephedrine. Obviously, this will create a huge inconvenience for anyone suffering from a routine cold.
But, more to the point, the ban will not succeed in its goal of reducing methamphetamine use. If someone wants to cook meth badly enough, they will also drive to the next town (and the next, and the next) to purchase enough pseudoephedrine to cook their batch. But suppose the law were extended to cover all of Missouri, or even the country. Would that stop people from getting meth? It seems unlikely. There are no coca or poppy fields in this country, yet the supplies of cocaine and heroin never seem to disappear. The more likely scenario would be for production to get pushed into Mexico, where methamphetamine could be mass produced. In fact, that is what has already happened, to a large degree.
Where there is demand, there will be a supply. Poplar Bluff’s efforts to control methamphetamine are Sisyphean, and have been ever since I can remember. The police department constantly claims victory is around the corner, but they seem no closer to eradicating it than when I was in high school and people did lines in the back of shop class. All this law will succeed in doing is making one of the most common and effective forms of health care available, pesudoephedrine, vastly more expensive for honest citizens.