HARRIMAN (WATE) - Tennessee's Attorney General says local ordinances requiring prescriptions for pseudoephedrine violate state law.
Attorney General Bob Cooper was asked whether municipalities can pass their own local laws requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine, the key ingredient for making meth, to combat the problem.
Towns like Harriman have put those regulations in place to combat the meth epidemic, but Cooper says state law supersedes them.
Eighteen cities including Harriman passed ordinances aimed at fighting the meth problem. Harriman Mayor Chris Mason says his city passed an ordinance in November requiring mandatory prescriptions for pseudoephedrine. He says it was the best way he could deal with the problem of meth abuse in his city.
"We see it every day, we see little children blown up and burnt from meth labs at home. It's not working. They need to address the issue and take it further," said Mason.
The attorney general's ruling could give the state legislature a bigger chance to regulate the problem, even though the head of the Tennessee Meth Task force says sales of pseudoephedrine are down 70 percent in the cities with the prescription ordinance.
"Those were the targeted cities that had significant sales of pseudoephedrine sales coming from them," said Tom Farmer, director of the Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force.
He says there have been 1,504 meth labs seized in Tennessee in 2013.
Recently, new cold congestion medications like Nexafed and Zephrex-D have hit the market. Both tout the ability to make it more difficult to extract the pseudoephedrine needed to make a one-pot meth lab.
"I think we're going along the proper pathway to ensure we still have pseudoephedrine containing compounds available to us for legitimate medical purposes, while also limiting their ability to be used for nefarious purposes," said David Belew, owner of Belew Drugs in Knoxville.
The attorney general's opinion may reinforce rules already in place. Mayor Mason says for now, it won't change the law passed in his city.
"What we're doing is trying to make things better and what we did will make things better," said Mason.
The Consumer Healthcare Products Association, an advocate for the healthcare products industry, supports state-level legislation because, it says, local measures are "not effective."
"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."
In Missouri, similar ordinances have been passed in 71 different cities in that state.
Mississippi and Oregon have successfully passed statewide laws mandating prescriptions for pseudoephedrine.
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