Adventures in Regulation
The following exchange occurred at a town-hall-style meeting of small-business people in Cleveland late last year. The meeting was sponsored by the Small Business Administration and presided over by SBA director Erskine Bowles. The woman who spoke from the audience, Deborah Fagan, is the owner of the Berea Pet Hospital, a $225,000 business with one full-time employee and three part-time employees.
Woman in the audience: "I am Deborah Fagan. I own the Berea Pet Hospital, a very small business. My concern involves government regulations. I had a problem with a bottle of a controlled substance that was on the premises when I purchased the business. The bottle became outdated in 1986, so I knew it wasn't supposed to be there. I called a drug company that handles the substance and was told, 'We don't know what to do with it. Call the pharmacy board.' I called the pharmacy board. The pharmacy board said, 'No, you can't have that there if it's outdated.' 'What do I do with it?' 'We don't know. Call the DEA [Drug Enforcement Agency].' So I called the DEA. They said, 'You can't have that there; it's outdated. You have to get rid of it, and you have to document how you get rid of it because it's a controlled substance.' 'How do I do that?' 'You call the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency].' The EPA says, 'Well, all you do is flush it down the toilet.' [Laughter.] I said, 'I can't flush it down...."
Moderator: "Do you have a local talk show in this town? You should be on a TV show. What was this controlled substance?"
Woman: "It's called phenobarbital. I said, 'I can't do that, because I have to document what I've done with it.' They said, 'Then you should call the pharmacy board."* * *