A Canadian court has ruled that Ontario residents can get cold and allergy medicine containing pseudoephedrine from local grocery and corner stores.
The Ontario Superior Court has overturned an April 2006 decision by pharmaceutical regulators and the Ontario College of Pharmacists preventing grocers from selling medications containing ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, such as Contac C, Claritin and Benadryl.
The original decision was made last year to address concerns that medications containing pseudoephedrine were being used to make crystal meth.
Methamphetamine (methylamphetamine or desoxyephedrine), popularly shortened to meth, is a psychostimulant drug. "Crystal meth" refers to the crystalline, smokeable form of the drug.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers, who challenged the original verdict, hailed the new ruling as a victory for rural store owners and consumers.
Removing the remedies from grocery store shelves did little to combat the problem, since the number of meth labs dismantled in Ontario doubled in the months since the decision took effect, said Gary Sands, vice-president of the Federation.
Grocers were being unfairly targeted as a source of ingredients, since the operators of illegal drug labs were getting their supplies in bulk from offshore suppliers, not stores, Sands said.
He charged that neither the college nor the National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities, which recommended the original ban, explained why grocery stores were forbidden from selling the over-the-counter remedies while pharmacies were not.
The federation spent a year in court fighting the decision on behalf of rural communities that have access to grocery stores but no pharmacy, Sands said.
"In downtown Toronto, you can walk a block to a drugstore. But in many rural communities, if your child has an allergy or a cough, you're driving two or two and a half hours in some cases, to the nearest pharmacy," he noted.
On their part those involved in curbing drug trafficking pointed out that consequent on tighter controls in the U.S. on the sale and purchase of pseudoephedrine, crime gangs outsourced their supplies from Canada.
In the process the Canadian meth lab industry too started to boom, and outlaw motorcycle gangs, Asian crime groups and independent trafficking networks became heavily involved in the production and trafficking of methamphetamine.
A rise in certain types of crime in British Columbia in recent years is attributed in part to the increased use of methamphetamines. Car theft, fraud and sex assault are all fuelled by the adrenaline rush from crystal meth.