By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer
A proposed city ordinance that would put cold medicines and other drugs with pseudoephedrine behind the counter at local stores is being inspected and amended by a task force.
The point of the ordinance, according to the district attorney, is to make it more difficult for methamphetamine manufacturers to obtain the key precursors for the drug, thereby cutting down on meth production in the community.
Comprised of city commissioners, city administrators, police and the district attorney, the task force began work Monday. City Commissioner Robert Sandoval said this is an important process to go through to make sure the ordinance is as good as possible once approved by the commission.
“Everybody there is agreement that we need to do something, that these meth labs are a terrible thing,” he said. “I’m sure it’s a fairly good ordinance, and I want to make sure we have the best ordinance possible.”
The city commission voted 6-2 to introduce the ordinance at Thursday’s city commission meeting. Several concerns were raised at the commission meeting, and some of those were discussed at Monday’s task force meeting, commissioners said.
“I would characterize it as a very productive meeting,” said commissioner Fred Van Soelen. “(There were) differing view points, but everyone was working together.”
Privacy and identity theft issues were raised and discussed, Van Soelen said. Some at the meeting expressed concern that requiring signatures of those purchasing products with pseudoephedrine — as dictated in the original ordinance — could open buyers up to identity theft. The task force decided, at the advice of police, that they could do away with the signature provision, and qualify the identity of purchasers through other means.
Sandoval said a provision that would hand purchasing records to retailers for up to three years was excessive. Police agreed, and a compromise was reached for police to pick up records from retailers and hold them no longer than six months, Van Soelen said.
“They put their concerns on the record and we talked about ways we could allay their fears,” said Van Soelen, who believes the ordinance will be a good tool for law enforcement to reduce meth manufacturing.
Sandoval said hearing the public’s concerns is important to make sure the ordinance achieves its objective to curb methamphetamine production. Another meeting is scheduled for next Monday, Sandoval said.
“If anybody has any concerns and questions I would like to encourage the public to be there,” Sandoval said. “That’s the only way we are going to really look at our citizen’s concerns.”