Has Breaking Bad Inspired Misdirected Nanny State Action Among State Legislators?

Breaking Bad, whose 5 season run is regarded as one of the greatest television series of all time, gave millions of people insight into the world of methamphetamine. Even people who didn't watch the show know the basic storyline: a New Mexico science teacher gets cancer and cooks meth to make money to pay for his medical bills.

Most meth in the United States is made in Mexico in "super labs" similar to the one depicted as Gus's "Lavanderia Brillante" from the show. Without getting into the recipe, if one of the required precurser ingredients (ephedrine or pseudoephedrine) isn't in pure powder form, it can be separated from cold medicine tablets that contain it. In the show, Jesse and Walt give up on the complicated process of collecting cold medicine in bulk and obtain methylamine (which isn't difficult to obtain or make) instead. 

The success of Breaking Bad has state legislators jumping at the chance to take real world regulatory action against an epidemic popularized by Hollywood. This, however, is where the similarities end. Instead, policy is being crafted by writers who have lost their focus somewhere in between the first and second season, making consumers, not drug bosses, the villain in an attempt to make their storyline work.  

In Mississippi and Oregon, state law requires a people to get a prescription for cold medicine like Sudafed. This burdensome and unnecessary requirement was recently considered in West Virginia as well. State Senator Bill Cole (R-W.Va.) said at the time: “We’re just punishing good, honest, law abiding West Virginians. There are only two states in the whole country where you need a prescription to get Sudafed medicine, and there’s absolutely no proof it does anything about meth labs."

He's absolutely right. Even more, in West Virginia, requiring prescriptions for cold medicines would have cost the state and taxpayers millions of dollars. An analysis of the state specific plan concluded that the requirement would have cost a total of $247 million over 10 years, $146 million from the state and $101 million directly from citizens. The bill failed. 

It would be wrong to make the new battlefield for the failed War on Drugs our local CVS. or Walgreens. Taxpayers should not be penalized for a failed understanding among legislators and regulators that increasing demand for illegal Schedule II substances has nothing to do with the availability of products that alleviate the symptoms of a common cold. 

Vince Gilligan would probably agree. 

TAGS: Regulation, Nanny State

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