published Sunday, February 27th, 2011

Meth fight comes to General Assembly

Proposed laws to fight meth

SB 561/HB 181 — Makes pseudoephedrine products a prescription-only drug

SB 325/ HB 234 — Requires pharmacies to use an electronic database called the National Precursor Log Exchange, paid for by cold medicine manufacturers

SB 1534/HB 1990 — Gives the National Precursor Log Exchange database a year to work. If it doesn’t, pseudoephedrine products would become prescription-only in 2012

SB 351/ HB 591 — Adds additional guidelines onto the National Precursor Log Exchange that pharmacists would be required to follow to sell pseudoephedrine products

Source: Tennessee Legislature

Sides are being drawn in the state Legislature on how to curb the production of meth in Tennessee.

At the crux of the argument is how to limit the availability of pseudoephedrine — a main ingredient to make methamphetamine but one of the quickest, most efficient remedies for sinus problems.

Lawmakers are divided on whether to pass laws that either would require pharmacies to use a database — the National Precursor Log Exchange — to monitor pseudoephedrine sales or would turn pseudoephedrine-containing cold medicines such as Claritin-D, now available over the counter, into prescription-only.

The opposing bills clashed Thursday on the Senate floor.

“No immediate legislation can stop meth,” Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mount Juliet, said as she introduced her electronic database proposal. “[But] we don’t need a sledgehammer to kill an ant.”

Lawmakers who questioned her bill argued that the meth epidemic is so large, it needs a massive response, in this case, requiring people to have a doctor’s prescription to buy medicines with pseudoephedrine.

Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, who is sponsoring a prescription-only bill, argued that law enforcement authorities believe taking pseudoephedrine off the shelves is the only way to stop meth manufacturing.

“It’s a very large problem, particularly in the rural areas,” he said. “I would favor using a sledgehammer to stop this terrible abuse.”

The proposed legislation for the database, backed by pharmaceutical manufacturers and the Tennessee Pharmacists Association, was making headway in the Senate until Thursday, when lawmakers questioning its effectiveness deferred the bill for a week.

But Beavers, who is the chairman of the Judiciary Committee where her bill was unanimously passed in mid-February, chided her colleagues.

“It’s a serious bill, and you don’t need to question it,” she said on the Senate floor.

Tennessee is ranked second in the nation for meth labs seized, and the state hit an all-time high in 2010, when more than 2,000 meth labs were busted.

On each side of the argument, lawmakers argue that their proposals have local support.

“There are people out there who need [cold medicine],” said Beavers, whose bill has several co-sponsors.

While lawmakers acknowledge that limiting the public’s access to pseudoephedrine products is an unpopular option, they say law enforcement is asking for the law.

“Hopefully, people are realizing the cost is real,” said Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, who is sponsoring a prescription-only House bill. “The tracking system is certainly an option we have, but law enforcement would like us to go further giving them help.”

Law enforcement, including the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Tennessee Police Chief’s Association and several local sheriffs are openly supporting laws to restrict pseudoephedrine access.

“Nothing has worked so far; nothing has stopped it,” said Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd.

Last week, federal funding to assist local police in meth lab cleanup ended, putting the costly burden on local governments. Local law enforcement has estimated that each meth lab — which is full of toxic and explosive chemicals — costs about $2,500 to clean up properly.

Faced with the possibility of having to pay for meth cleanups, several local law enforcement officials held a news conference, trying to get the attention of lawmakers.

McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy asked local pharmacies to participate in a 100-day ban on pseudoephedrine sales or require users to get a prescription from their doctor.

“Even now, a pharmacy has the power to request prescriptions,” Guy said. “And we’re calling on other pharmacies to do the same thing.”

During his news conference in Athens, Tenn., Guy was flanked by officials from several local police departments, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and the 10th Judicial Circuit of Tennessee, which covers Bradley, McMinn, Monroe and Polk counties.

Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, who is a co-sponsor of the electronic tracking bill, said the sheriff’s request got his attention.

“I’ve always been opposed to making this drug prescription,” he said during the Senate session Thursday. “But I’m at least now up for discussion for prescription only.”

Some authorities, such as the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association, have taken a neutral path and decided to support any legislation that addresses meth.

“Making it a controlled substance by prescription is certainly the best way to go, [but] tracking is a good option,” said Greene County Sheriff Steve Burns, president of the sheriff’s association.

about Joy Lukachick...

Joy Lukachick is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing ...

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I sure don't know what bubble Beavers lives in but she better wake up and smell the meth labs, as should every other law maker in Nashville. Our state is mighty high on the list of those who have a huge meth problem. I personally am upset to see that it's even become an issue to make sinus meds prescription only. It should be a LAW and passed pronto. Wake up you silly fools in Nashville.

March 8, 2011 at 5:16 p.m.
mykikki said...

i AGREE WITH THE FIRST COMMENT. WHY SHOULD LAW ABIDING PEOPLE HAVE TO PAY FOR THE DRUG USERS AND MAKERS?

HAVING TO PAY A DOCTOR OFFICE VISIT TO GET A PRESCRIPTION FOR OVER THE COUNTER IS WRONG. WE ARE NOT THE ONES USING THEM TO MAKE THIS NASTY STUFF.

WHEN SOMEONE GETS CAUGHT DONT LET THEM OUT! DONT LET THEM SIT IN JAIL EITHER AND BE IN AC IN THE SUMMER AND CENTRAL HEAT IN THE WINTER. MAKE THEM WORK OUT PICKING CROPS AND OTHER THINGS OUTSIDE. THEY WILL QUICKLY GET THE MESSAGE.

lET THEM KNOW THEY WILL BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS.IF OUR ARMED FORCE PERSONS CAN BE OVERSEAS IN FULL COMBAT IN OVER 100 DEGREES F

THESE PEOPLE CAN BE OUT IN THE FIELDS WORKING AND BE MADE TO TAKE THE JOB OF AN ILLEGAL PERSON. THE MONEY OF MIN. WAGE THAT IS GIVEN WILL GO TO PAY FOR THE CLEANUP OF THEIR METH LAB. NOT US

MAKE THEM PAY INSTEAD OF THE CITIZENS OR THE STATE. ALSO MAKE THEM WEAR SIGNS EVERWHERE STATING WHAT THEIR CRIME IS ALSO. IF MORE PEOPLE CAN SEE THE PERSON AND KNOW THEIR CRIME THEN THE CITIZENS CAN WATCH THEM CLOSER SO THAT THEY CANT GET AWAY WITH ANYTHING CAUSE AS WE ALL KNOW POLICE CANT BE EVERYWHERE..

NOW THE JUDGES AND LAW MAKERS THEY ARE MAKING MONEY OFF OF THEM BY LETTING THEM OUT ON BAIL OR FINES. THEY ARE NOT BEING PUNISHED PROPERLY..; IT SEEMS WE ARE!!

IF THEY WERE PUNISHED AND NOT ALLOWED OUT UNTIL THEY SERVE ALL OF THEIR TIME AND IF IT IS HARD LABOR THEY WILL THINK TWICE BEFORE DOING IT AGAIN. IF THEY ARE SECOND OFFENDERS THEN OFF TO PRISION THEY GO .

IF THEY MAKE PRISON HARD AND MAKE THEM WORK OUTSIDE AND GROW THEIR OWN FOOD. THEY SHOULD HAVE TO PAY TO BE IN JAIL OR PRISION TO HAVE A BED, TO SHOWER, TO HAVE A TOWEL SHAMPOO AND ALSO TO EAT. NO FREE RIDES. THIS WAY THE JAILS AND PRISIONS WOULD NOT NEED MONEY FOR A BUDGET.

June 24, 2011 at 10:01 p.m.
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