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EBay prohibits sales of meth ingredients on its Web site Drug war - The auctioneer is having difficulty keeping up with changing state laws governing sales of the drugs
Online auction giant eBay has banned sales of medication containing the chemicals pseudoephedrine and ephedrine, a move that drug enforcement officials said Thursday will cut off an emerging pipeline for the illicit methamphetamine trade.
The Internet auctioneer added the key chemicals used to make methamphetamine to its list of prohibited items Monday, company spokesman Hani Durzy said.
The decision resulted from a rapidly changing landscape of laws governing the sale of pseudoephedrine that made it increasingly difficult for eBay to police its auctions, Durzy said. Oregon and other states have passed laws in recent months that restrict pseudoephedrine sales.
"It became really not possible for us to make sure people were not inadvertently breaking the law by selling in one state where it's legal to a state where it's not legal anymore," Durzy said.
He declined to say how many pseudoephedrine auctions eBay has pulled. The Silicon Valley-based company had not seen "huge volumes" of pseudoephedrine for sale, Durzy said. Most of the yanked auctions probably did not involve what he called maliciousness but rather ignorance of eBay policy or state laws.
Law enforcement officials had described eBay as a budding marketplace for sophisticated methamphetamine cooks. Buyers and sellers of the chemicals used to make the addictive drug could remain relatively anonymous on eBay, a site where millions of registered users come and go by pseudonyms.
"Anything that keeps precursors out of the hands of those who want to turn them into meth is a good thing," said Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Bill Grant when notified of eBay's ban on pseudoephedrine sales.
The DEA had worked with eBay for at least the past six months to stop such sales.
The company has developed filtering tools that search for keywords flagging possible auctions involving banned items, Durzy said. Such prohibited auctions are also reported to the company by registered eBay users, he said.
Craig Dulniak, a Tennessee-based blogger who runs a Web site called pseudoactivist.blogspot.com said that eBay has removed at least 41 auctions involving more than 507 grams of pseudoephedrine after receiving e-mails encouraging the company to do so.
As recently as two weeks ago, eBay listed at least 10 auctions for pills containing the chemical with headlines such as "Pseudoephedrine by the Box or by the Bottle."
The auctions offered boxes located in Portland that contained 1,000 30-milligram tablets, an amount that far exceeds state limits. Winning bids for three of the auctions came in at $122.50, $79 and $65.
Oregon Board of Pharmacy rules approved in April restrict cold medicine buyers to nine grams of active pseudoephedrine a month, about the amount in three 24-pill boxes of Sudafed.
Last year, Oregon became the second state in the nation to require that many pseudoephedrine products be kept behind the counter instead of on open store shelves.
Last month, Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed legislation that will require prescriptions for medications containing pseudoephedrine.
The new requirement must be in place by July 1, but officials have said they may be able to implement the restrictions months before that.
Under the law, doctors can prescribe the medication over the phone and consumers can get as many as five refills in a six-month period.