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Pseudoephedrine—or PSE—is an active ingredient found in many over–the–counter (OTC) medicines like Advil® Cold & Sinus, Allegra-D®, Claritin-D®, Mucinex® D, Zyrtec-D® and Sudafed®. PSE provides convenient, effective treatment for congestion due to colds, allergies and sinus problems.

In an effort to stop the illegal sale of PSE to manufacture methamphetamine, federal law has moved all PSE-containing medicines behind a sales counter, limited purchases to 3.6 grams per day (or one 15 count box of a 24 hour allergy medicine) and 9 grams per 30 days, and required a purchaser’s signature in a logbook that is accessible by law enforcement. These limits were set so that patients could access medicines they need for cold and allergy relief but prohibit criminals from illegally purchasing to manufacture methamphetamine. Some states have additional requirements on where or how much you can purchase.

Criminals have identified ways to skirt these sales limits by “smurfing” – when criminals move from store to store to purchase illegal amounts of PSE or ask individuals to purchase these medicines for them to be used for the production of meth.

Purchasing these medicines for someone else who is using these medicines to illegally manufacture methamphetamine is a felony and can result in up to 20 years in prison.

U.S. federal law states [From 21 USC §841(c)]:

(c) Offenses involving listed chemicals (such as pseudoephedrine)

Any person who knowingly or intentionally—

(1) possesses a listed chemical with intent to manufacture a controlled substance except as authorized by this subchapter;

(2) possesses or distributes a listed chemical knowing, or having reasonable cause to believe, that the listed chemical will be used to manufacture a controlled substance except as authorized by this subchapter;

shall be fined in accordance with title 18 or imprisoned not more than 20 years in the case of a violation of paragraph (1) or (2) involving a list I chemical or not more than 10 years in the case of a violation of this subsection other than a violation of paragraph (1) or (2) involving a list I chemical, or both.

Additional background on the Anti-Smurfing Campaign.