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Allergy Sufferer Facing Drug Charges for Buying Legal Medicine

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US health authorities finalized a change that will force most insurance plans to cover contraception for women and other preventive health services at no extra cost.

Iowa woman Rhonda McGee is facing drug charges that could lead to twenty-five years in prison for allegedly participating in meth amphetamine tracking by purchasing more over-the-counter medicine than the state considers necessary. Records indicate that McGee, who says she and her husband are chronic allergy sufferers, did not purchase more medicine than the 26-month interval in question would allow. Nonetheless, legal documents charge that she "unlawfully and willfully conspire with one or more persons to manufacture, deliver or possess with intent to deliver ... a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine.” McGee has no documented history of drug use or criminal behavior. Aside from a 2004 conviction for trespassing, her record is clean. 

From the Des Moines Register:

This case began when members of the southeast drug task force obtained a warrant to search the state’s database of pseudoephedrine purchases for those suspected of “smurfing” for the cold and allergy drugs in the area.

Smurfers use power in numbers, taking turns buying meth’s key ingredients, while prepping for a planned cook.

McGee said that last fall, task force investigator Mark Milligan called her and asked her to come over to Ottumwa to explain her purchase of 32 allergy-drug packages since late 2010 — all but a couple at the Walgreens in Ottumwa.

She said she tried to explain that she has severe allergies, especially when she is out in the fields, and that she was in the habit of picking up some Wal-phed when she made the more than hourlong road trip to Ottumwa from Lovilia and back.

She said she got the medicine mostly for herself. But sometimes it was used by her husband, who also has allergies. Or sometimes she wrapped it in hot dogs to give to her dogs. Without it, she said, her border collie, now deceased, would bite at allergy “hot spots” like crazy.

During part of the time in question, McGee told Milligan, she was taking more medicine than normal because she and her husband had black mold growing in their old farmhouse. They have since had part of their home gutted and remodeled to get rid of the problem.

According to the Des Moines Register, court records charge that McGee puchased more than 90 grams of the cold and allergy medicine, but reports from the psueophedrine database many states have enacted show that McGee purchased 32 packages --  about 46 grams -- of pseudoephedrine over a period of more than two years.  Legally, the Register says she could have purchased more than twice that over the 26-month period in question. Iowa caps pseudoephedrine purchases at 7 grams per moth, but the Register does not make clear if the charges against her stem from violations during particular 30-day periods. 

As stunning as it may be, the case against McGee is reflective of nationwide policies monitoring pseudoephedrine-based medicines like Sudafed. As I recently reported, the war on meth amphetamine has been more successful in punishing cold sufferers than it has in combatting drug traficking. While meth manufacturers evolve and wisen up, unsuspecting Americans are caught up in a policy authorities say is supposed to protect them. 

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