"McMinn Deputies Guy McGill and Doug Benton process meth lab components discovered on County Road 177 during the "Wipeout" Crime Suppression Operation Tuesday night." Photo from McMinn Co. Sheriff's Dept.
Reported by Cara Kumari/WSMV, NASHVILLE
The number of meth labs seized in the state of Tennessee is on the rise despite a new law that was supposed to stop meth addicts from getting the main ingredient.
The law created a real-time tracking system that has blocked many suspicious sales of pseudoephedrines, like Sudafed. But instead of making a dent in the state's meth problem, it has created a new industry of crime.
So far this year, there have been 906 meth busts, compared to 753 through this time last year. One likely reason is because of a sudden loss last year of federal meth cleanup funds.
But some have questioned whether the new law is making the desired effect.
"It's not designed and it will never stop meth labs. It's never going to," said Tommy Farmer, with the Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force.
Rather, law enforcement officers say the unintended consequence of the tracking and blocking law has been that pseudoephedrine has become currency for drug dealers. Criminals will seemingly do anything to obtain it, including using fake IDs or recruiting unsuspecting people to procure it.
"We've witnessed an entire new cottage industry of crime pop up, and that's individuals that are seeking to capitalize on nothing but supplying the main ingredient," Farmer said.
Many in the Tennessee law enforcement community want the state to emulate Oregon and Mississippi, where residents must first obtain a prescription in order to purchase pseudoephedrine.
But state lawmakers have shied away from that idea, because they said it creates an inconvenience for those who need the drugs for legitimate reasons.
Farmer said hopefully lawmakers will consider the facts.
"Let's let the facts tell us what to do. Let's learn from history," he said. "And let's implement something that we feel that is going to be the best solution."
As for the new anti-meth law, the state comptroller is required to study its effectiveness and report whether it is actually working.
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