Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

Oregon recently became the first state to require prescriptions for medications whose ingredients can be used to produce methamphetamine. While legislative motives were no doubt good, we now know that this law will likely backfire.

The Oregonian just reported that, according to federal data, “Two decades of government effort have failed to curb the availability of meth,” and “the drug’s potency has hit levels not seen in a decade.”

Oklahoma preceded Oregon putting the cold pills used in homemade meth behind the counter. While home lab seizures have plunged there, “the number of Oklahoma users shows no sign of falling, and property crime still keeps the Oklahoma County Jail at capacity.”

These disappointing results stem from The Iron Law of Prohibition. This law states simply that the more intense the law enforcement, the more potent the prohibited substance becomes.

We saw this law in action when America tried to outlaw alchohol in the 1920s. As the Cato Institute found, “Although consumption…fell at the beginning of Prohibition, it subsequently increased. Alcohol became more dangerous to consume; crime increased and became ‘organized’; the court and prison systems were stretched to the breaking point; and corruption of public officials was rampant.” Prohibition was repealed in 1933.

Inconveniencing consumers with head colds won’t do anything to reduce meth use or the crimes associated with its distribution. Meth is dangerous enough without misguided government policies making the problems worse.

Steve Buckstein is senior policy analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon based think tank.

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