Today, in California, workers and families are struggling in way they have not in recent memory. With 12% unemployment – second highest in the nation – many workers cannot find jobs to pay the mortgage and cover basic expenses like food and clothes. In addition, nearly seven million Californians are uninsured meaning few families can afford the medical care they need and many do not have access to doctors outside those in hospital emergency rooms.

In light of this, legislation that requires a prescription to purchase common cold and allergy medications with pseudoephedrine (PSE) is misguided and would punish those who need care the most. Making basic medications like Claritin-D and Sudafed accessible only after seeing a doctor would unnecessarily increase costs and place burdens on those who can least afford it. A prescription mandate would force students and workers who depend on these medicines to miss days in the classroom and hours on the job exacerbating already difficult situations.

And for those without insurance, the inability to obtain routine medicines they and their family depend on would result in ailments turning to sicknesses requiring immediate care, which would place additional strains on local hospitals, many of which are reeling from recent budget cuts. During allergy season, these numbers could grow significantly and impact Californians suffering from asthma and allergies.

In short, a prescription only mandate like that proposed in Senate Bill 315 does not make sense. We all agree that meth abuse is a serious problem in California. We must take it head on, but the solution requires common sense, not an extreme policy that penalizes patients, not criminals.

Fortunately, there is middle ground namely an electronic tracking system that blocks sales in real time and at the cash register from those seeking to use medications containing PSE to produce meth, while allowing Californians to access the decongestants they need.

Legislation in the state legislature, Assembly Bill 1280, which has been introduced by Assembly member Jerry Hill, merits our support. For the first time in California, it would institute an electronic tracking system that would have the capability to block sales to those who attempt to purchase more than the legal and allowable amount of products containing PSE.

E-tracking has been approved in over a dozen states and we are already beginning to see results. For instance, in Alabama, in the first three months alone, an e-tracking system blocked 26,000 purchases preventing 64,000 grams of meth from being produced, which would have an estimated street value of $9.6 million.

And in Florida, the database stopped 40,000 illegal sales with the director of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Substance Abuse at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale saying, “It has been among the most successful laws we’ve had in reducing meth production.”

Imagine the impact in a state the size of California if we prevented the illegal sale of medications containing PSE. It only make good sense to put in place a practical course of action like e-tracking as opposed to a prescription mandate.

As president of the California Retail Association, I recognize the importance of this issue as our members sell these products addressing common cold and allergy conditions. Our retail community welcomes the opportunity to implement a statewide e-tracking system as it provides their customers with the medicines they need and protects the public.

We must not lose sight of what’s important in this debate and it is stopping sales of products to criminals who want to abuse meth, while allowing sales to law-abiding citizens who contribute to our economy and society and need basic medications to deal with common colds and allergies.

California’s elected officials pride themselves on embracing policies that represent the interests of the majority of their constituents. In this case, that policy is clear. Implementation of a statewide e-tracking system would help fight the scourge of meth abuse without placing unreasonable and costly burdens on families and workers.

Bill Dombrowski is president and chief executive officer of the California Retailers Association (CRA).