The most vexing issue for the General Assembly in the coming session may not have anything to do with roads or RFRA.

In a recent conversation I had with State Rep. Chuck Moseley, D-Portage, he spent some time discussing the state's drug crisis. The issue came to the forefront this year with Indiana earning dubious recognition for having the most methamphetamine labs in the country.

We're not talking about the giant labs run by crime syndicates, as portrayed in the TV series "Breaking Bad." State Police say 99 percent of the labs are run by addicts. In one case, an active meth lab was found in a backpack in the bathroom of a Muncie Walmart. Part of the problem, Moseley said, is people who go from pharmacy to pharmacy purchasing the allergy medicine used to manufacture meth.

Last month, House Speaker Brian Bosma said he would advocate for a bill requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine, the ingredient in current over-the-counter medicines like Claritin-D and Allegra-D. It would be an inconvenience to allergy sufferers, but it's a measure that has proven successful in other states in reducing meth manufacturing.

Moseley also touched on the issue of heroin addiction and the public health approach of needle exchanges. Indiana ended its ban on needle exchanges this year, but only in response to an HIV outbreak in southern Indiana's Scott County. Though needle exchanges have been proven successful in reducing the spread of infectious diseases, the Scott County program was approved reluctantly on a temporary basis. State approval would be required to expand the program to another county.

Why not allow counties to institute needle exchange programs on their own if county health departments deem it a benefit? One only needs to look at the zero-tolerance approach exemplified by the search and seizure case before the Indiana Supreme Court where a man was convicted of a felony from having a single painkiller pill he collected among the possessions of a deceased relative. 

The slow walk by Indiana of the obvious needle exchange solution reflects the central problem in Indiana's unsuccessful approach to drugs. The notion that drugs are a law enforcement issue first and a public health issue second needs to be reversed. If Indiana is to reverse the grim statistics, lawmakers must take a bold approach that puts public health and help for addicts first.

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