Missouri Attorney General Expands Anti-Smurfing Campaign

Voluntary Anti-Meth Program Addresses Drug Sellers

Yahoo Contributor Network

A voluntary anti-meth program is growing in Missouri. State Attorney General Chris Koster, along with three trade organizations such as the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), announced an expansion of the awareness campaign of the penalties of selling pseudoephedrine as a private party to meth cooks.

* The Anti-Smurfing Campaign targets potential illegal buyers as they purchase the drugs at retail locations. Koster was joined by leaders from several agencies Thursday as pharmacies began to voluntarily show signage at locations in St. Louis. The campaign officially began in mid-March in Kansas City, Mo.

* Koster said Thursday, "Public education is an essential step in the fight against meth cooks and dealers. The Anti-Smurfing Campaign represents an important part of that effort. I am confident it will make potential criminals think twice before making an unlawful pseudoephedrine purchase."

* The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports Koster spoke at Ladue Pharmacy near St. Louis. Private citizens can sell cold medicines for up to $100, according to the media outlet. Koster is an advocate of a statewide prescription-only law while industry lobbyists are against the proposal and seek alternatives such as signage and an electronic tracking database. Around 70 local governments have prescription-only laws on the books in Missouri.

* Smurfing is the practice by which meth cooks and meth sellers get around state limits on purchasing pseudoephedrine drugs. Instead of purchasing items from drug stores or pharmacies, dealers and producers recruit and pay third parties to regularly purchase over-the-counter cold medicines. Another way around the law is when criminals intentionally go from store to store on a regular basis to purchase meth ingredients.

* The voluntary Anti-Smurfing Campaign involves signage at counters of pharmacies and drug counters. Stores can download and print materials from the campaign's official website. One image shows someone in handcuffs with the words "Buying meds to make meth? Police take names ... and make arrests." Another sign shows a little girl with the caption "Meth makes children orphans."

* Anyone who knowingly purchases meth ingredients for someone else faces up to 20 years in jail. The anti-smurfing initiative began in October. The idea behind the posters is to warn potential criminals without alarming normal consumers at the drug counter. Materials are provided to pharmacies and stores without cost.

* The Missouri Pharmacy Association and Missouri Retailers Association joined the CHPA to co-sponsor the program. Law enforcement agencies such as prosecuting attorneys and police organizations also help retailers with the anti-smurfing campaign.

* Missouri is the third state to launch an anti-smurfing campaign. The Show-Me State has been one of the leading states for meth lab busts for a decade and costs the state millions of dollars annually for meth lab cleanups, prosecutions and police work.

William Browning is a research librarian specializing in U.S. politics.

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