Starting on Sunday, stuffed-up shoppers must go to a pharmacy counter, show a government-issued photo ID proving they are at least 18 and sign a log book before they can purchase many common cold medicines.
The restrictions are part of a new law designed to crack down on the illegal manufacture of methamphetamines, a growing problem in East Central Illinois and many other parts of the country.
"With the help of consumers and retailers across the state, our battle against methamphetamine will reach a critical new level by further reducing access to the key ingredient in this poisonous drug," said Attorney General Lisa Madigan, a Democrat. An Illinois law enacted in January 2005 limited sales of medicines where ephedrine or pseudoephedrine was the sole active ingredient to two boxes at a time. Neighboring states have passed even stricter laws, making Illinois particularly attractive to meth cooks, Madigan said.
The new law will change that, she said.
It covers all medicines containing any ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, which become schedule V controlled substances on Sunday.
"All the states that have enacted schedule V controls have seen a reduction in meth labs," Madigan said.
Oklahoma reported an astonishing 80 percent decline in meth labs after it enacted a similar law.
State Rep. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, who was just getting over a cold himself this week, said the new restrictions are a minor inconvenience for law-abiding citizens, but a major deterrent to criminals.
The fact that they would have to provide their name, address, driver's license and other information for a log book that police can access will scare meth cooks off, he said.
"The important thing is that a meth addict will not show an ID under any circumstances," Rose said. "That's the deterrent."
Under the new law, shoppers are limited to no more than two boxes of cold medicine in a single retail transaction and no more than 7,500 milligrams in a month. That amount is enough to provide the full recommended adult dosage for 30 days, Madigan said.
Anyone needing more medicine than that can buy it, with a prescription from a doctor.
If the pharmacy counter is closed, or if the store does not have a pharmacy counter, a "convenience pack" can be purchased that contains enough medicine to treat an adult for about a day and a half. Those small doses must be kept behind store counters or in locked cabinets, and buyers must still show identification and sign the log book.
The log must include the person's name, address, the date and time of the transaction, and a description of the item purchased.
The log books must be retained for at least two years and must be made available to law enforcement officials on request.
Violations of any part of the law could trigger penalties for customers, store employees and even the store itself.
Madigan declined to comment specifically on how the new law would be enforced.
"We're not going to tell you how we're going to go about compliance," she said. "But you should be assured that they're going to be enforcing this."
Tiffani Bruce, corporate spokeswoman for Walgreens, said the company is ready and willing to comply with the new law.
"We think that this is in the best interest of public safety," she said.