Gov. Haslam introduces bill to fight meth production

(WBIR - Nashville) Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam announced Thursday legislation that he said will limit access to pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in the production of meth.

The legislation is called the Tennessee Anti-Meth Production Act (TAMP). Haslam said the goal of the legislation is to limit access to pseudoephedrine and other ephedrine products to people who use it illegally, called 'smurfers', while trying to limit the burden of law-abiding citizens.

"Results are tragic and deadly," said Haslam at a press conference Thursday. "We had nearly 1,700 meth lab seizures in 2013. Last year nearly 300 children were taken into custody by the Department of Children's Services in cases where meth was a contributing factor. "

The proposal would restrict the amount of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine a person can purchase in a 30-day period to 2.4 grams.

"If you're not a buyer of those products, that's the most frequently purchased box size now," said Haslam.

Haslam said if someone needed more than that, pharmacists could then use their own discretion and sell up to 4.8 grams in 30 days. Anything more than that would require a prescription.

"In 2012, the average consumer only bought 4.8 grams for the entire year," Haslam added.

If the TAMP was approved, Haslam said Tennessee would have the lowest limit on the amount of cold medicine products consumers can buy.

"Alaska and and Minnesota currently allow up to 6 grams per 30 days, the limits of states that neighbor Tennessee range from 7.2 to 9 grams per 30 day period."

Oregon and Mississippi require a prescription for all pseudoephedrine products. On Monday, State Senator Doug Overbey, (R) Maryville, proposed the same law for Tennessee.

"I don't think it will be a hassle. Will people be inconvenienced somewhat? Yes, probably," said Overbey in an interview with 10News.

10News reached out to Overbey Thursday. In an emailed statement he said, "We look forward to today's announcement from Governor Haslam, and are glad he agrees that Tennessee needs to confront the meth problem we continue to face. We look forward to discussing this issue with the administration."

Overbey also said, "A federal Government Accountability Office report shows that while other states are struggling, Oregon and Mississippi, which are the only two states that have adopted prescription-only laws, have seen the number of meth lab incidents sharply decline."

Overbey and the governor said he is looking forward to a much-needed aggressive debate on the issue.

At the press conference, Mark Gwyn, the director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said he supports TAMP and said officers are drowning in methamphetamine.

"Ten years ago it was an East Tennessee problem. A rural East Tennessee problem. Today it's just as much of an urban, West Tennessee problem," said Gwyn. "Nothing is going to completely wipe away every meth lab in the state, nothing is going to take away the addicts. But we've got to reduce it and this will reduce it, without a doubt."

As for smurfing, Gwyn said pharmacists would be trained on what to look for, and said the bill would help stop meth makers.

"None of us can say at this point that this won't work, and we're not going to say that," said Gwyn. "We're going to get behind this and let's give it a try and see what happens."

"Will this stop smurfing? No. But will this make it harder? Yes," added Haslam.

Haslam said he had not heard direct feedback from pharmaceutical companies about his proposed legislation.

10News received a statement from the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, or CHPA. The president and CEO said he commends the governor but does not support the bill.

"The legislation proposed today would burden law-abiding Tennesseans — particularly those who suffer from frequent allergy symptoms —with severe restrictions on the amount of certain cold and allergy medicines they can obtain before consulting a doctor," said Scott Melville, president and chief executive officer of CHPA. "For too many Tennessee families, the proposal is tantamount to a prescription mandate and imposes unnecessary burdens on law-abiding citizens' time and pocketbooks. With the beginning of this year's legislative session now underway, we look forward to a healthy dialogue with the governor and Tennessee legislators to find an effective means to punish criminals, not law-abiding Tennesseans."

CHPA said Knoxville, Memphis ,and Chattanooga are among the top ten most challenging places to live with fall allergy symptoms, according to 2013 Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America data. The association said if TAMP was enacted, the restriction would dramatically impact those consumers who suffer from chronic allergies.


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