published Thursday, February 24th, 2011

McMinn sheriff calls for ephedrine ban

ATHENS, Tenn. -- As allergy season approaches, one Tennessee sheriff is calling for a 100-day statewide ban on the sale of over-the-counter medications containing pseudoephedrine.

"We have to start somewhere," McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy said at a news conference Wednesday in Athens. "We want to get the attention of the public; we want the attention of retailers and our state representatives."

With the support of local law enforcement and prosecutors, Guy is asking that retail stores suspend all sales of pseudoephedrine -- the main ingredient in methamphetamine -- or require a prescription for the drug for the next 100 days.

COMING SOON: Check out Sunday's Times Free Press to read about opposing bills that address how to reduce meth production.

Tennessee is second in the nation for meth labs seized, and McMinn County led the state last year with 161 meth labs busted.

The timeframe for the ban is an arbitrary number. Local police say it would give people time to see if medicine without pseudoephedrine could work on their allergy and sinus problems and also whether a prescription-only mandate could lower meth production locally.

Guy was accompanied by officials with the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, the 10th Judicial District and several local police departments.

Guy said he was motivated to call for the ban when federal funding to help clean up meth labs was cut this week across the country.

It costs about $2,500 to properly dispose of all the toxic chemicals in a meth lab, said Steve Lawson, the 10th Judicial Drug Task Force director. He estimated the cleanups might cost the four counties in the district -- Bradley, McMinn, Monroe and Polk -- $1 million a year if they have to pay for them.

"Lawmakers need to pay some attention," he said.

Another concern is that smaller, low-budget law enforcement departments might be tempted to save money by ignoring proper procedures to dispose of the chemicals, Lawson said.

An electronic database put in place by the Tennessee Meth Task Force in 2005 now tracks pseudoephedrine sales. But meth makers are finding ways to get around the database, so law enforcement must find new ways to stop the drug, Guy said.

Guy said that even with allergy season on the way, local pharmacies should be concerned about public safety.

Beth Truelove, a pharmacist at Wilson's Drug Inc. in Englewood, said she probably wouldn't stop selling pseudoephedrine products because she already takes proactive measures when selling the medicine.

"[Employees] are all trained that, before they sell it, they have to OK it with the pharmacists," Truelove said. "That's my policy."

The same proactive policy at pharmacies across the state could help eliminate many meth labs, she said.

"We've got to do something," Guy said. "We felt like now is the time for a call to action."

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about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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mykikki said...

why not make it a part of probation of anyone caught dealing or making meth to stand outside a public place like lowes or walmart with a sign stating their crime.

For example" I am a meth dealer or meth lab maker and this is part of my probation. For a least for 4 weeks. on a Sat when everyone is out shopping. or for anyone else that has commited a crime like thief, etc.

This way everyone would know who they are and in a small community could keep an eye on them . The public looks and whispers would send a louder message than anything else would. It is being done in other states and it is working. It is not illegal to do this!!!!

Why should persons with allergies have to be punished for a drug dealer,users or makers that will do anything or something worse to get what they need to make this horriable stuff.

Why not put them out for the public to shun them or to know who they are in order to make this and other punishments work.? It seems that nothing else is working and it is costing counties Money that they dont have.

Also every inmate should be made to work out in the fields harvesting crops . instead of having it easy inside the air condition buildings.

If our men in service over seas can be in full combat in the hot sun, then our prisoners can also. IF you make it easy on them how can they take responsiblity for their actions??

June 14, 2011 at 2:09 a.m.
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