SPRINGFIELD – Starting Jan. 15, Illinois shoppers must show a photo ID and sign a log book in order to purchase most nonprescription cold medications.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed legislation on Wednesday classified ephedrine and pseudoephedrine as "schedule V controlled substances," making them more difficult for both the legitimately congested and the illegal methamphetamine manufacturer to obtain.
"This is just one more weapon in the fight against meth," said Blagojevich spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch.
Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are active ingredients in many nonprescription cold medicines, and are also critical for manufacturing meth, a dangerous stimulant.
"This is a good day for Illinoisans, particularly those who have already felt – or are currently feeling – the horrendous afflictions caused by methamphetamine production and abuse," said state Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, who has long pushed for passage of such a bill. "Our state desperately needed a change in policy, and today, after months of hard work and tremendous grass-roots support, we finally got it."
An Illinois law enacted in January 2005 limited sale of medicines where ephedrine or pseudoephedrine was the sole active ingredient to two boxes at a time. Since then, neighboring states have passed even stricter laws, making Illinois particularly attractive to meth cooks, according to Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
"Signing of this legislation into law means that Illinois will never be a weak link in a chain of states working to put meth makers out of business," Madigan said in a written release. "It brings law enforcement and retailers together, in a united front, to make it harder for criminals to complete their shopping lists."
The new law was approved unanimously by both the House and Senate during the recent veto session.
It requires that cold medicines containing any amount of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine be kept behind pharmacy counters.
Customers are limited to no more than two packages of cold medicine at a time and no more than 7,500 milligrams in a month.
Purchasers must be at least 18 years old, show photo identification and sign a logbook with their name, address, the date and time of the transaction, and a description of the item purchased.
The logs will have to be retained for at least two years and must be made available to law enforcement on request.
Violations of any part of the law could trigger penalties for customers, store employees and even the store itself.
State Rep. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, acknowledged that it would be inconvenient for law-abiding citizens, but said it was a necessary tradeoff.
Oklahoma saw an 80 percent drop in the number of meth labs after enacting a similar law, he said.
"We can't afford not to do this," Rose said. "Will this be a minor inconvenience to people, including myself? Yes, but it's definitely worth that to get a handle on this problem."
The legislation does permit retailers to sell small "convenience packs" of cold medicines, containing enough to treat an adult for about a day and a half, Rose noted.
Those small doses must be kept in locked cabinets in stores, but would be available 24 hours a day without going through a pharmacist.