TN AG calls local prescription-only pseudoephedrine rules invalid

(WBIR-Tennessee) Cities in Tennessee that have adopted their own ordinances to fight meth making, now face the opposition of the state's top attorney.

In a written statement from earlier this week, Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper said he believes rules passed by several cities requiring prescriptions for medication containing pseudoephedrine violate state law.

Harriman is one Tennessee city that recently changed its local law to prescription-only pseudoephedrine.

"If you take away pseudoephedrine, you won't have people making it at home, period," Harriman Mayor Chris Mason said.

At least 19 cities across the state have passed such laws.

Tennessee ranks number two in the nation for meth lab busts and pseudoephedrine is a key ingredient for meth making.

But Attorney General Cooper's opinion is that local leaders cannot regulate the sale of over-the-counter drugs, saying only state lawmakers have that power.

Tennessee law allows customers with photo ID to purchase 3.6 grams of pseudoephedrine per day.

"The state law that's in effect right now is not working," Mayor Mason said.

Mason went on to say, "On a city level, we're trying to take care of our portion of it but it's going to take everybody."

Just last week, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation credited local prescription-only measures for lowering the rate of meth labs this year. Numbers show towns with those ordinances have seen meth lab declines ranging from 40% to 71%.

But State Senator Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, told 10News making local rules tougher than state law may put some cities at risk.

"I could see a group of citizens saying, 'This is not consistent with state law.' And so they could bring a class action lawsuit against these cities saying, 'We don't have to have a prescription for pseudoephedrine,'" Sen. Beavers said.

Cities and counties that have passed prescription-only ordinances can continue to enforce them.

It would take a legal challenge for cities and counties to stop enforcing their rules.

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), which has lobbied in Tennessee and in other states against prescription-only laws, applauded the attorney general's opinion, offering this statement:

"We have always maintained that a prescription mandate for pseudoephedrine is a state issue. Local city- and countywide mandates are not effective solutions to address the illegal purchase of pseudoephedrine-containing medicines, and we look forward to working with the Tennessee legislature to find effective solutions to the illegal sale of PSE."


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