Oregon would no longer require a prescription for medicines containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine under a bill that has cleared the House.

House Bill 2648 went to the Senate on a 54-4 vote on Wednesday, April 28.

The requirement for a prescription was written into law in 2005, when people were buying medicines containing pseudoephedrine — a precursor chemical — for use in making methamphetamine, a powerful stimulant that is illegal. Oregon was the first state to do so.

“We had a meth-lab problem and it was really bad,” Rep. Bill Post, a Republican from Keizer and the bill’s floor manager, said. “It worked. Meth labs went way down to almost nothing.”

The law made it harder to obtain some medicines commonly used for colds and allergies.

But since then, methamphetamine manufacturing has switched from homegrown labs to Mexico. Methamphetamine remains illegal, although under a ballot measure Oregon voters passed last year, possession of small amounts is no longer a crime.

Ephedrine is banned as a performance-enhancing drug by college sports and some professional sports leagues.

House Bill 2648 retains some restrictions on access to such medicines. People can obtain them by showing a photo identification to establish age — the minimum is 18 — and receive them from behind the store counter. In addition, purchases are tracked by a system known as the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx).

Mississippi, the only other state that required a prescription, recently passed a similar bill.

The Oregon bill, if passed by the Senate and signed by Gov. Kate Brown, would begin the new requirements on Jan. 1, 2022.

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