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State passes meth bill

By Caitlin Rickard crickard@lebanondemocrat.com • Dec 17, 2015 at 6:21 PM

The Tennessee General Assembly finished up Thursday, but not before passing a bill that would limit sales of cold medications containing pseudoephedrine.

Legislation taking measures against methamphetamine cropped up all throughout the assembly, as Gov. Bill Haslam launched his own bill to put limits on sales of drugs containing pseudoephedrine, which is used in the meth manufacturing process.

Other options and opinions heard throughout the assembly included making medicines containing pseudoephedrine available by prescription only and putting no further restrictions on pseudoephedrine to avoid punishing those who suffer from allergies.

Within the legislature, the House and Senate both passed different versions of the bill, the Senate taking Haslam’s version on the amount that could be obtained without a prescription. The House doubled the amount in its version of the bill.

However, on Thursday – the last day of the session – the Senate conceded and a bill was passed with the House’s stipulations for twice the level Haslam had endorsed, which is now 28.8 grams per year, or the average amount needed for five months of taking the medication regularly.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, who sponsored the bill for Haslam, said senators accepted the House version as an alternative to “the specter of no bill at all.”

The final approved bill also includes a provision proposed by the Senate that says no one under 18 years old can buy any medication containing pseudoephedrine without a prescription.

Law enforcement officers, who have looked for stricter pseudoephedrine guidelines following recent meth surges, seem to be happy with the decision.

“Meth-related issues are one of the greatest threats to our citizens today,” said Lebanon police Chief Scott Bowen. “I’m glad to see there was a compromise between prescription only and reduced limits. Hopefully this will help cut back on the ‘smurfing’ issues that we are experiencing.”

Wilson County Sheriff Robert Bryan was similarly pleased.

“I’m glad they passed something,” said Bryan. “We’ve got to start somewhere.” 

For now, Bryan said he saw the bill limiting consumers to certain amounts of the meth ingredient “as a start” in stopping the rising methamphetamine problem.

“This is a whole lot better than just letting them have all they want.”

Tom Humphrey of the Knoxville News Sentinel (Knoxville, Tenn.) contributed to this story via MCT.

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