Are chronic allergy sufferers in danger of being arrested for making meth?

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To combat the rampant manufacture of meth, Iowa passed a bill in 2005 making it one of the first states to place pseudoephedrine behind the counter at pharmacies and placing limits on how much of the drug individuals could purchase. And, in 2010, Iowa joined the national database to track the purchase of pseudoephedrine across state lines. While many lauded these efforts to stem the tide of pseudoephedrine into drug-makers' hands, some folks have worried that the measures could make chronic allergy sufferers targets for criminal investigation.

One Iowa woman claims that's exactly what happened to her, after she was flagged for buying well under the legal limit of pseudoephedrine and was arrested as part of a suspected meth ring. She says the only reason she was buying allergy meds is because she has a house full of allergy sufferers.

The Des Moines Register has the details on the case of Rhonda McGee, who was arrested in January for allegedly taking part in a conspiracy to manufacture meth. The paper doesn't assert that McGee is definitely innocent of the charges; it only points out some worrisome aspects of the case against her. McGee has no drug history, and bought less than half of the legal limit of pseudoephedrine during the time period for which she is being investigated, mostly in the form of Wal-phed from a single Walgreens pharmacy. She's never purchased the drug outside of the state.


Still, McGee's purchase history, though legal, raised flags with law enforcement. She claims that she suffers from chronic allergies thanks to working in her farm's bean fields and thanks in part to the black mold that was, until recently, growing in an old farmhouse on her property. Her husband also takes the medication on occasion, as does her dog, who suffers from hotspots. In the wake of the arrest, McGee has spent four days in jail, paid $5,000 in bail money, and had her name dragged through the mud. The column doesn't mention evidence of criminal activity aside from her Wal-phed purchases.

The concern raised by the Des Moines Register's Reader's Watchdog column is that law enforcement may be using the pseudoephedrine database to treat individuals engaged in law-abiding behavior as criminals. The column promises to track this case and other cases related to the database to see how this particular form of surveillance is being used by law enforcement. You can follow Reader's Watchdog in the columns section of the Des Moines Register.


Photo Credit: Kirk Peart Professional Imaging/Shutterstock.

Reader's Watchdog: Woman faces trial after buying legal allergy pills [Des Moines Register]