Smurf’s Up! by Tom Sumner

Smurf’s Up! by Tom Sumner

Sunday, 07 May 2017
Blog Posts

Michigan’s Attorney General Bill Schuette is “on-duty” to protect law abiding cold and allergy sufferers in the state from a practice known as “smurfing.” Last week, the AG teamed with Tuscola County Prosecutor Mark Reene, the Michigan Retailers Association, Michigan Pharmacists Association and Consumer Products Association to launch an “anti-smurfing” campaign.

A dear friend, the late Pat Clawson was a former investigative reporter for CNN. He was not a fan of Flint area media. His critical analysis of local press referred to ABC12 News as “pablum” and that The Flint Journal should adopt a new slogan – “If it’s news, it’s news to us.”

AG Schuette’s press release announcing an “anti-smurfing campaign” was news to me in more ways than “smurf” being used as a verb.

The first picture I conjured up was someone dyeing their skin blue, wearing elf-like clothing and dancing around at a big sporting event singing “la la la-la la la” for the cameras. But no.

Apparently, “smurfing” is the act of buying over the counter cold and allergy medications for the ingredient pseudoephedrine for use in the manufacture of methamphetamine. The awareness campaign seems designed to alert the public not to inadvertently help meth cooks.

Whether you are a legitimate law abiding cold and allergy sufferer or the sous chef for a meth lab, it is against the law to buy over the counter medications for this purpose. But how did these criminals become known as “smurfs?”

It occurred to me that I have never heard the phrase.

I’d like to say that it was journalistic curiosity that led me to ask several people of varying ages and cultures if they had heard of “smurfing.”

The truth is that the fact I was learning something about the drug culture from Michigan’s Attorney General and presumed 2018 Republican Gubernatorial hopeful Bill Schuette made me feel like I still had a VCR in my living room with the digital clock blinking “12:00” over and over.

Most of the people I asked had never heard of “smurfing” and looked at me like I was referring to something sexual.

The next image I had was AG Bill Schuette using the term “smurfing.” It was reminiscent of the stern drug lectures of Dragnet’s Jack Webb in the 1960s talking about “pot,” “refer,” “weed” and “mary jane” or the hysteria of the 1936 film “Reefer Madness” and its depiction of the dangers of marijuana and ragtime music.

Where did the AG and his “anti-smurfing” partners pick up the phrase? Did it show up in disgraced State Representative Todd Courser’s e-mail or texts? Was it from the tales of undercover law enforcement officers just back from the mean streets in the world of “smurfing?”

Meth labs are dangerous in so many ways and the term “smurfing” undermines the seriousness of the issue in Michigan and around the country.

I don’t know what baffles me more. Is it people who may be accidentally aiding the manufacture of meth? Is it the existence of words like “smurfing?” Or, is it a potential candidate for Governor and Attorney General using the word “smurfing.”

Enter Rod Serling…

Imagine a place and a time where and when a radio talk show host learns an unexpected lesson from an unexpected source.”

Smurf’s Up – in The Twilight Zone”

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