State leaders say an online database that tracks the purchase of pseudoephedrine, an ingredient used to make meth, should curb a growing problem in the state. Governor Dennis Daugaard signed Senate Bill 24 into law, which will implement a tracking system called the National Precursor Log Exchange or NPLEx.
There are plenty of customers who need this for a case of the sniffles. However, Lewis Drug Pharmacy Director Bill Ladwig knows some people use certain cold and allergy medicines to make meth. He said that is why many pharmacists keep in-store records of pseudoephedrine sales.
"The problem is, it's difficult to share from store to store. And if you're really good at doing this, you'll do what they call 'smurfing.' They'll go from place to place and you're buying a box at a time. It's hard to keep up with that," Ladwig said.
The NPLEx will require retailers and pharmacists in South Dakota to enter customer information into an online database, keeping electronic records of pseudoephedrine sales, which will be shared among stores. 29 other states, including North Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa already use it.
"This is a real-time database. It's revolutionary. It's the way it needs to be done," Ladwig said, noting Lewis stores in Iowa use this system.
According to the law, effective in July, you must present, "a document issued by a governmental agency that contains a description of the person or a photograph of the person, and gives the person's date of birth." This includes a tribal identification card, driver license, state-issued identification card, passport or military identification card.
"It's a sad state when you've got to monitor something like this, but unfortunately, this is not new," Ladwig said.
Attorney Marty Jackley championed Senate Bill 24 and has been fighting meth abuse in the state.
"New and simpler methods of manufacturing methamphetamine have increased the number of meth labs across our state. The new technology prevents the illegal purchase of ingredients used in meth manufacturing and also respects overall privacy and convenience for consumers that rely on cold and allergy medications to enable them to get through busy days at work," Jackley said.
From just January to February, there were 217 meth arrests in South Dakota. Last year, authorities made 1,229 arrests. This is why state leaders say there is a meth problem in South Dakota.
Ladwig said the system will allow his employees to intervene and stop a sale if records show a person has already purchased large quantities of pseudoephedrine.
"A box of Sudafed should last you through a cold," Ladwig said. "If I'm a general customer, I would not be concerned at all about this. This is just the government getting involved to make sure to check an abhorrent problem we have in the Midwest with methamphetamine."