Is it legal to buy ephedrine pills in New York or is this product banned?
Ephedrine HCL is an ingredient found in certain medications used to alleviate symptoms of asthma, bronchial spasms, allergies and other breathing disorders.
This alkaloid derived from the ephedra plant is also used to promote fat loss, enhance athletic performance and increase energy levels. However, it’s use in dietary supplements has been banned by the FDA since 2004.
While you can purchase ephedrine in certain stores in New York without a prescription, its possession and use is subject to several restrictions. These policies can also vary from state-to-state and may affect you if you are travelling with this product as well.
Before using ephedrine in New York State, it’s important to not only know federal law, but state-level regulations as well. Click here to buy ephedra supplements online legally without a prescription.
Ephedrine in New York
Based on New York law, neither ephedrine nor pseudoephedrine are controlled substances.  This means that you can buy pharmaceutical drugs with these non-prescription ingredients in licensed pharmacies.
When seeking additional information regarding, ephedrine or pseudoephedrine it is found that they are listed under controlled substances of the 2013 version of the New York Consolidated Laws (Public-Health) Article 33.  However, this is because they are controlled substances under federal law and not state law.
According to a report by The National Alliance For Model State Drug Law, there are, “No state-level statutes or regulations. Only federal law applies.”
While New York statutes do not currently provide for state-level restrictions on the sale of this product, residents will still have to comply with federal laws when purchasing ephedrine. These laws are enforced by the US Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Agency
Under US federal law (specifically the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005, enacted in spring 2006), there are restrictions on how the product can be sold and how much can be purchased at any one time.
This act regulates any over-the-counter sales of cold medicines that contain ingredients such as ephedrine that are commonly utilized in the manufacture of methamphetamine. 
This does not necessarily mean that such products including asthma, cold and flu medications, or cough remedies will be available over-the-counter.
Retailer’s discretion determines whether to display such products in cases where employees must obtain them from behind lock and key for the consumer, or whether the consumer will need to purchase such products at the pharmacy counter.
In many states around the country, sellers of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine containing products keep those products behind the pharmacy counter to minimize their liability risk.
According to Federal law, any non-liquid product containing ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, or phenylpropanolamine must be sold in a nit dose blister pack. These products also have to be stored behind the pharmacy counter or in a locked cabinet out of public access.
Limits for Buying Ephedrine
Under federal law there are daily as well as monthly sales limits for products containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine. Individuals are not allowed to purchase more than 3.6 grams of active ingredient per day or 9 grams per thirty-day period.
There is a 7.5 gram 30 day maximum for any products containing ephedrine sold by mail-order or “mobile retail vendor”. Purchases made by individuals with a valid doctor’s prescription are exempt from these restrictions.
Buying more than this amount is considered to be a federal misdemeanor. People have been arrested and prosecuted for buying too much cough and allergy medicine containing this ingredient.
This product cannot be sold to minors (anyone under the age of 18) and all purchasers must show a valid government-issued photo ID at the time of purchase. All sales of ephedrine tablets must be reported in a central logbook and the retailers are required to report any suspicious purchases or disappearance of the products to the Attorney General.
Stores are also required to train their employees regarding the legal requirements set out by the CMEA. There are also penalties laid out for stores that do not comply with these regulations.
As a result, many large retailers have decided to discontinue the sale of these products, even though they are legal in New York.
Ban on Ephedra Supplements
While ephedrine is not a controlled substance under New York state law, there are state-wide regulations preventing the sale of products containing ephedra.
Under the 2014 New York Laws GBS – General Business Article 26 – (390 – 399-ZZZ) MISCELLANEOUS 391-O – Sale or promotional distribution of dietary supplements containing ephedra, it states,:
“No person, firm, corporation, partnership, association, limited liability company, or other entity shall sell or offer to sell or give away, as either a retail or wholesale promotion, a dietary supplement containing any quantity of ephedra within New York
state, except as authorized by subdivision three of this section.”
What is noteworthy is that they define ephedra as “any natural or synthetic form of ephedrine and ephedrine alkaloids”. This is an unusual definition of ephedra considering that there are many species of ephedra that do not contain any ephedrine alkaloids.
This law is applicable to general businesses selling dietary supplements containing ephedra. It does not apply to herbal medicine practitioners who are not selling the product as a dietary supplement.
According to the New York law, ephedra sinica or Ma Huang is not applicable under these guidelines when provided by an Oriental medicine practitioner whose qualifications and certifications are accredited by the National Commission of Certifying Agencies.
It is not clear whether under this law forms of ephedra extract that do not contain any ephedrine alkaloids would be banned. This is the way that the law is written under the FDA federal policy.
In 2004, the FDA banned the sale of any dietary supplements that contain ephedra extract inclusive of ephedrine alkaloids. They found that these fat-burners and diet pills posed a significant risk of serious side effects and were unsafe if abused for weight loss.
This ban resulted in many popular diet products being removed from supplement store shelves throughout New York state and the USA. However, not all forms of ephedra were covered under this ban.
The ruling created an exception whereby species of ephedra plant that did not naturally contain any ephedrine alkaloids could continue to be sold. Not all types of ephedra extract contain ephedrine or pseudoephedrine.
For example, species of the ephedra herb that are indigenous to the United States do not have high levels of alkaloid content. E. viridis and E. nevadensis are both legal to use in dietary supplements because they do not contain enough ephedrine to cause unsafe side effects.
There are many of these legal ephedra supplements that are sold online today. While you might not find these products at GNC, Walmart, Amazon, Target, CVS or Walgreens, you can buy them online from specialty retailers based in the USA.
- JUSTIA US Law. 2013 New York Consolidated Laws. PBH – Public Health. Article 33 – CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES. Title 1 – (3300-3309-A) GENERAL PROVISIONS. 3306 – Schedules of controlled substances”.
- U.S> Food & Drug Administration. Drugs. Legal Requirements for the Sale and Purchase of Drug Products Containing Pseudoephedrine, Ephedrine, and Phenylpropanolamine