I went to the local CVS pharmacy the other day to get some cold medicine. Pseudoephedrine hydrochloride, best known under the brandname Sudafed (although, as always, much cheaper in the generic store brand), has long been the preferred over-the-counter decongestant agent. Unfortunately, it is also well known as one of the most widely available precursor agents to methamphetamines. To restrict access to the large quantities of pseudoephedrine that meth brewers need, the government has recently reclassified the drug. While it is still non-prescription, it is no longer “over the counter.” Instead, when buying pseudoephedrine products, one must actually produce a state or federal ID, which is then either scanned by a barcode reader or recorded in a log book. Yes, to buy cold medicine in the United States you are now subject to almost the same level of ID check as required for boarding an airplane.
On the other hand, and this will be of most interest to fans of HBO’s The Wire, pre-paid Verizon cell phones can be had entirely anonymously, with no ID check whatsoever, for roughly $70 cash.