They are at again. The members of the St. Charles County Council have decided they want to improve the economy.  Sounds good, considering our current economic times. Sounds good – until you realize they want to improve the economy in St. Louis County and drive Internet sales up!

In my blog posting, St Charles County: Is it Still Conservative?, I wrote about the Council’s consideration of making over-the-counter medicines containing pseudoephedrine available by prescription only. It appeared that some sense had settled in the Council chamber. But, alas, it was only short-lived.

The Council, in its best Dudley Do-Right role, is deciding what is best for business and for you and me. I guess they are trying to make up for blowing it on the smoking ban, but they’ve missed the mark yet again.

They believe increasing the cost of our medical care is a good thing. How’s that, you say? Well, they want us to pay to go to the doctor to get a prescription for OTC medicines.

That’s a great idea – for retailers in St. Louis County who sells these products. A lot of us already frequent St. Louis County for a number of reasons, whether for work, recreation, etc. While we are there, we might as well pick up our OTC products. After all, the Council is making it clear that St. Charles County retailers don’t need the business and the County doesn’t need the sales tax revenue.

This is even better news for an online retailer with no physical presence in the state – no sales taxes and lots of business!  You don’t even have to leave the comfort of your home to shop. Even with shipping charges, the medicine will be cheaper than your co-pay for your doctor’s visit.

It’s true that the Council has been sold on, er, I mean believe the notion that this will eliminate or significantly reduce the scourge of meth in our communities. When other states have enacted such a ban, their meth lab busts went down. Sounds like a good solution, right?

So did the current system of placing the OTC meds behind the counter, limiting the amounts that can be purchased and requiring that purchasers sign a log. This was sold to the legislature as the cure-all for the meth problem.  And, in fact, it did have an impact – but just for a while, until meth-makers found a way around it.

Going even further back, when I served on the St. Charles County Council, anhydrous ammonia was being stolen from farmers as a key ingredient for meth. We were asked then to require special locks on the anhydrous tanks to prevent pilfering of the product. That seemed to work, too – for a while.

Now the surefire, solve-all-the-problems solution of yesterday is no longer a success. The current solution du jour, prescriptions for OTC medicine, is now being pushed as the cure-all. If the history of other such efforts is any indication, this will undoubtedly have at least a short-term impact – until the criminals find a way around it, too.

Millions of metric tons of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are confiscated every year. Most of these confiscated goods were being shipped out of the country, primarily to Mexico. The compound would likely return to the U.S. as either an ingredient for sale underground or as meth, much the same as those goods that are not confiscated or found.

It is true that meth is a scourge. It is also true that law enforcement has an extremely tough job trying to keep up with the ever-changing situation and formulas (from anhydrous ammonia to “shake-‘n’-bake”), and they deserve our support and gratitude for doing so. I tip my hat to all the men and women involved in protecting our safety and well-being.

However, more government regulations regarding a common product that is used by more “good” people than “bad” is not the answer. The “if we can save only one life, it will be worth it” approach is not acceptable.

I began this blog post with the statement that the St. Charles County Council has decided it wants to improve the economy. Most of us know, by observing government at the national and local levels, that government neither creates jobs nor improves the economy unless it is getting smaller. This proposed ordinance is bigger government, not smaller government.

As with most bigger government “good ideas,” it will have a greater negative impact than positive. It will improve the economy – just not in St Charles County!