Following a vote by the city council Monday night, Washington became the first city in Franklin County - and Missouri - to require prescriptions to buy pseudoephedrine-based medicines.
The ordinance will become law as soon as it's signed by Mayor Dick Stratman who said he will do that this week.
Pseudoephedrine is the single, vital ingredient that's needed to make meth.
Detective Sgt. Jason Grellner, commander of the Franklin County Narcotics Enforcement Unit, said he's "99.9 percent" certain that Washington is the first city in the nation "to step up and do this."
He addressed council members Monday night and urged them to pass the ordinance.
The vote was 6 to 2 in favor of the ordinance, which became effective on passage. Councilmen John Rhodes and Tim Overschmidt voted no. Guy Midkiff, Carolyn Witt, Connie Groff, Tim Buddemeyer, Walt Meyer and Jeff Mohesky supported the measure.
Grellner is on a mission to get all cities in Franklin County to pass similar ordinances as a way to curb the continuing scourge of methamphetamine labs in this area. Each year, Franklin County ranks among the top five counties for meth labs in Missouri, which holds the infamous title of the No. 1 meth state in the county.
Grellner, the past president of the Missouri Narcotics Officers Association, led an unsuccessful campaign earlier this year to get the Missouri Legislature to pass a statewide law requiring prescriptions for pseudoephedrine. He credits a massive lobbying effort by pharmaceutical companies for keeping the legislation bottled up in committee until the last session ended.
"I have come to you to ask you to act locally. You have seven of the 21 pharmacies in the county," Grellner told the council.
Dr. Andrew Zupan, one of the nation's foremost pediatricians on the effects of methamphetamine on children, called pseudoephedrine a "truly useless drug," that only stops a runny nose for four hours. "Can other medications to the same thing? Absolutely," he told the council.
"It works for a short amount of time but it's no cure for anything. But meth is an enormous threat to society," Zupan said. "Wouldn't it be great if Washington started the bandwagon?"
Rhodes questioned whether the council legally could adopt the restriction. "Cities do not have the power to pass this type of ordinance," he said.
Grellner said he's not asking the council to make pseudoephedrine a scheduled drug. That authority is limited to states and the FDA, he noted. "I'm asking you to require it be sold by prescription only."
Rhodes said he believes the ordinance will be challenged in court.
"Who's going to sue you?" Grellner asked. "Do you think the meth makers will sue you?"
"I think the pharmaceutical companies will sue us," Rhodes replied.
"They're not going to sue you. They're cowering," Grellner said. The drug companies are losing the fight in California to require prescriptions and have offered to pay the cost to establish a national electronic monitoring system, he noted.
"Somebody should sue these companies the same way we did the tobacco companies," Grellner said, noting that while drug companies make "billions of dollars in profits," the cost to the country in dealing with meth is $23.4 billion a year.
"The issue here is do we have the legal authority," Rhodes said.
"We have the authority to pass ordinances," said Mayor Dick Stratman. "Sometimes they pass muster, sometimes they don't. We need to grab the bull by the horns. The legislators are sitting on their hands. Local government is where it's at. We need to take that chance and go with it."
Calling it "absolutely pathetic and shameful" that politicians refused "to stand up against this type of garbage," Midkiff said he agrees with Grellner.
"This is so disturbing on so many different levels," Midkiff commented. "If it's not legal, we'll let the law catch up with us."