Wisconsin takes on smurfing in anti-meth campaign

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Smurfing is happening in Wisconsin, and the state and businesses are trying to crack down on it.

Smurfing has nothing to do with blue cartoon characters. It's the term used for buying over-the-counter cold and allergy pills for the purpose of making meth. These are the medicines that contain pseudoephedrine.

States and federal laws have made it more difficult to purchase these meds. Meth manufacturers responded by sending their "Smurfs" into stores to buy the key ingredient.

The state has teamed up with retailers and pharmacists to launch an anti-smurfing campaign. It's part of the state's Know Meth program.

"The entire state and nation have heard about the opioid epidemic and how it's destroying lives, stressing human services budgets and straining the foster care system--and frankly overwhelming our criminal justice system," says Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel. "But what many people don't realize is that here in northern Wisconsin and western Wisconsin, it's typically meth that's taking the largest toll on our communities."

Posters will go up at businesses and pharmacies that sell OTC medications with pseudoephedrine. The posters will "point out the consequences of buying medicine that will be used for meth production," according to the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

"If you are a law abiding citizen purchasing a cold or allergy medication you have nothing to worry about, but if you are buying a pseudoephedrine product for someone who will eventually use it to produce meth, this campaign is putting you on notice," says Danielle Womack, Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin.

The Brown County Drug Task Force says meth seizures have soared over the past few years.

"Through June of 2018, the Brown County Drug Task Force has seized 12,975 grams or approximately 28.5 pounds of meth," according to Brown County Chief Deputy Todd Delain.

The federal government in 2006 passed a law that forces businesses to keep certain cold and allergy pills behind the counter. People who buy pseudoephedrine are limited to 3.6 grams per day and 9 grams every 30 days.

Customers must also sign a logbook.

In 2017, Wisconsin passed a law implementing an electronic system to help cut down on illegal sales of cold and allergy medications that contain ingredients used in the making of meth.

The anti-smurfing campaign is a partnership between the DOJ, Wisconsin Grocers Association, Alliance of Wisconsin Retailers, Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin, Alliance of Wisconsin Retailers, and Consumer Healthcare Products Association.