Tennessee ranks number one for meth labs

Tennessee ranks number one for meth labs, leads to new effort to make pseudoephedrine prescription-only

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By ALEXIS ZOTOS
6 News Reporter

HARRIMAN (WATE) – The director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation says the Volunteer State is on track to be number one in the nation for meth labs.

Tennessee ranks number two with more than 1,500 meth lab incidents last year

Making his budget presentation to Governor Bill Haslam this week, TBI director Mark Gwyn said limiting the availability of pseudoephedrine, an ingredient used to make meth, is the only way reduce meth production.

The state has created some restrictions over the years, but Gwyn says only two other states have put a dent in the meth problem. He says they did it by making pseudoephedrine prescription only.

Right now, pseudoephedrine sits behind the counter. Customers must show their IDs, and they can only purchase a limited amount. Even those restrictions aren't making a dent in the meth problem in Tennessee.

"As we crack down in one area, it seems they find their way around it, and we have to adjust. So, it's an ongoing problem," explained State Sen. Randy McNally.

Sen. McNally supports a renewed effort to make a state law requiring a prescription for the drug commonly used in meth production.

A similar bill was introduced last year but was but on hold.

Now some cities are taking the effort into their own hands. The city of Harriman recently based an ordinance requiring a prescription at pharmacies citywide.

"Our area here in Roane County, we've had some issues with meth manufacturing, and I was looking for anything that would make a difference," explained Harriman Police Chief Randy Hiedle.

Chief Hiedle believes the new ordinance will cut back on some of the meth production in their area.

"The problem with people making meth, by the time law enforcement is notified, the damage is already done; they've already made it. There's only one ingredient to make meth. To keep you from making meth, if you take it away, you can't make meth. And that's pseudoephedrine," he said.  

According to Tom Farmer, the director of the Tennessee Meth Task Force, nearly two dozen other cities have passed similar ordinances, and they've seen, on average, a 69 percent decrease in meth production.

People had mixed reactions to the restrictions.

"I think making it available by prescription makes it much harder for the folks who misuse it to get it, but for the folks who need it, it might be an inconvenience. But at the same time it's for the best," explained Roane County resident Sue Lynn Johnson.

"It would make it real inconvenient for those of us that use it the normal way, but I can understand why they're doing it for all the people who are abusing it," said Constance Blackburn of Kingston.

Chief Hiedle says the ordinance has only been in place two weeks, but he hopes to see a difference in the near future.

"As parents, as law enforcement, it's our obligation to do anything we can to make a difference in this meth issue," said the chief. "Because this is a major monster in our country, and it's not going to go away unless we keep on fighting at it."

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