Pseudoephedrine, more popularly known under the brand name Sudafed, is a stimulant drug typically used as a decongestant. It works by constricting blood vessels and reducing inflammation. As a stimulant, it also sees off-label use among truck drivers to keep themselves awake for long-distance drives.
You might think stealing a box of pseudoephedrine tablets might be a minor offense. It shouldn’t cost more than $9, so what’s the harm in taking this one over-the-counter medicine? However, Iowa law is especially strict about stealing this drug – so much so that anyone who violates the law faces enhanced penalties.
The laws on pseudoephedrine theft
Per Iowa law, stealing property not exceeding $300 in value is a simple misdemeanor. A conviction leads to as much as $850 in fines and up to 30 days jail time.
But the state also has a law specific to pseudoephedrine. If a person commits a simple misdemeanor theft of a pseudoephedrine drug or a product containing pseudoephedrine, the offense is enhanced to a serious misdemeanor. On conviction, a person accused of theft of pseudoephedrine must pay as much as $2,560 in fines and serve up to a year in prison.
Why is the theft of this one drug treated so severely?
What’s so special or dangerous about pseudoephedrine that Iowa enhances simple theft offenses involving the drug?
The drug certainly has adverse side effects, but the state is more concerned about pseudoephedrine being an amphetamine. Because it’s an amphetamine that can be purchased in any pharmacy, pseudoephedrine is an easy-to-acquire ingredient in the illegal production of methamphetamine, aka meth.
Even if you stole a box of pseudoephedrine because you were going to use it as a decongestant, there’s a possibility that you could face an enhanced charge. If you’re facing a charge of pseudoephedrine theft, don’t underestimate the risks and consider your defense options in court – because you could be on the hook for a heavy fine, not to mention spending a year in prison.