Current Tennessee law requires buyers of the cold and allergy medicines to show a photo ID and sign a logbook that is submitted to the state. People may not buy more than 3.6 grams of pseudoephedrine per day or more than 9 grams over 30 days. Law enforcement officials say buyers called “smurfs” circumvent those laws by traveling around to stay ahead of record-keeping and purchasing limits. In 2012, state records show about 748,000 of the state’s 6.4 million residents bought a product that contains pseudoephedrine. About half those purchases were diverted to make meth, officials said.
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Customers seeking relief from runny noses and headaches will have to take an extra step before buying pseudoephedrine-based cold medicine after Manchester, Tenn., officials passed an ordinance this week requiring a doctor’s prescription for the medication.
Despite the University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service’s doubts about the ordinance’s validity, Manchester aldermen voted 4-2 in favor.
The targeted medicines — such as Sudafed-Congestion, Advil Cold & Sinus, Tylenol Cold Severe Congestion, Mucinex-D and other brands — contain the main ingredient used by methamphetamine cooks to produce the illicit drug.
Vice Mayor Ryan French, who previously worked five years in a pharmacy, didn’t call the measure up until the end of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, he said.
“To be completely honest, I wanted to get a vote on it, but I didn’t expect it to pass,” French said.
Alderpersons Cheryl Swan and Tim Pauley votedagainst it.
Valid or not, French said, the ordinance makes an immediate impact on availability of the drug, and towns take little chance in passing it.
“There’s zero risk,” he said. “At worst, we would have to rescind it.”
The ordinance must pass two more readings to take effect.
It now has passed one or all readings in Manchester, Monteagle, all five towns in Franklin County, and Tracy City and Palmer in Grundy County. It is being studied in more than a dozen other Tennessee towns, according to officials in Winchester. That’s where the movement dubbed “Stop Meth Now” was spearheaded by the town’s police chief and Franklin County’s Prevention Coalition.
Manchester officials had tabled the measure when it was introduced so they could inquire about legal issues. MTAS issued an opinion to the town in June that the ordinance had “doubtful” validity. Officials also asked the state attorney general’s office for an opinion.
Also this week, Dresden, Tenn., officials passed the ordinance and went one step further with a resolution to the General Assembly calling for statewide prescription-only legislation, officials said. Mississippi and Oregon already have such laws in place, though opponents of prescription-only legislation point to continuing influx of Mexican meth and ongoing addiction problems in both of those states.
Winchester Police Chief Dennis Young applauded the resolution.
“It is a wonderful idea that I plan on following,” Young said in an email about the measure. “[Dresden Alderman Jeff] Washburn’s idea was [to] make it clear to their representatives that they expect them to represent the will of the people on this issue, and I agree wholeheartedly.”
Manchester officials said last week a ruling from the state attorney general could take some time, even months.
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at email@example.com or 423-757-6569. Subscribe on Facebook at facebook.com/ben.benton1 and follow on twitter.com/BenBenton on Twitter.
Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...