The US situation
Ephedrine is in the United States approved by the FDA as a drug for human consumption, but because it is a precursor for several scheduled drugs (methamphetamine & methcathinone), it is highly regulated. Possession of ephedrine is legal, but sales of large quantities are monitored and many states heavily regulate the forms and methods in which it is sold. Only dried ephedra herb (which can be used to make ephedra tea) and seeds can still be sold in any quantity as these supposedly were only used in Traditional Chinese Medicine.The FDA banned the sale of ephedrine in over-the-counter dietary supplements in early 2004. See FDA's February 2004 Announcement. Although the ban was temporarily in question when a federal judge ruled it invalid, the US Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals found in favor of the FDA; as of August 2006, a ban is in place on the sale of any product containing ephedra-alkaloids and ephedrine that has not been specifically approved by the FDA. As of 2006, retailers in the United States are required to collect the signatures of every person purchasing pseudoephedrine-containing products in log books and view a photo ID for every purchase of any product for which the entire box contains more than 60mg of pseudoephedrine. The "Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005" provides for criminal penalties for non compliance and limits the maximum amount an individual can buy to 9 grams of pseudoephedrine per any 30 day period (from Erowid).
The Dutch situationAs a result of the developments in the US, the Dutch Judicial Division of the Council of State (Raad van State) decided to no longer tolerate the sale of ephedra-containing products as a food supplement, and to make it a prescription drug immediately.
We think this is a very unwise decision of the Dutch government. Production of methamphetamine is almost zero so the new law must be based on rumours and emotional responses to the death of an American baseball player who supposedly died of an ephedra overdose. There has been done insufficient independent research into the health risks of ephedra to make a balanced legal decision. Moreover, ephedra is frequently used in the party/rave scene as a safer substitute for illegal chemical drugs, and now this alternative has been gone people will feel inclined to start using these illegal chemicals.
Dietary supplements harmful?
There is a lot of speculation going on about the future of (herbal) dietary supplements, since ephedra is the first, but probably not the last, supplement banned by governments all around the world. Read for example about Codex Alimentarius or the European Food Supplement Directive.
The articles below consider the pros and cons of the ban on ephedra products: read and draw your own conclusions. Erowid keeps a page with updates about the legal situation of ephedrine worldwide.
Recall ephedra products backed by industry
New dietary supplement bill
Dietary-supplement bill would help consumers
Ephedra users in the Netherlands: fun, weight-loss and performing
Judge's Decision Lifts Ban on Sale of Ephedra in Utah
Gone: What Does The ephedra Ban Mean For Consumers? - Dc/Updates: Word From Washington
Ephedra: Consumer Advisory
Is The FDA Gambling With Your Health?
It's All About The Money!
Circle The Wagons