NASHVILLE -- The Tennessee House today approved a bill compromise today limiting the amounts of pseudoephedrine-based cold medicines consumers can buy in an effort to curb its use in illegal methamphetamine production.
The bill passed 80 to 17 after a lengthy and spirited debate with some advocating for tougher limits and others resisting any limits at all.
“Yes, we have other drug problems,” acknowledged Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville to critics who questioned why meth is getting so much prominence. “But this legislation specifically goes to the fumes and the fires and the physical degradation that folks are seeing from meth production.”
Senators, meanwhile, are still considering a bill that reflects Gov. Bill Haslam’s call for more restrictions.
What passed the House today reflected a compromise between Haslam, who advocated a tougher approach, and a group of House members who wanted looser limits, saying they wanted to protect law-abiding constituents with allergies.
Efforts on the floor to amend the bill by putting Haslam’s original proposal back into the bill failed on a 58-37 vote. Many lawmakers oppose any restrictions.
Under the House-passed bill, consumers would be limited to purchasing no more than 5.76 grams or about 48 tablets of pseudoephedrine-based products every 30 days. The annual limit is 28.8 grams per year.
Anything beyond that would require a doctor’s prescription.
Senators are more in tune with Haslam’s original proposal. Their bill calls for 40 tablets of pseudoephedrine a month or 4.8 grams and 120 tablets or 14.4 grams a year.
Law enforcement officials want even tougher approaches. But powerful drug manufacturers have heavily lobbied against the bill and have run ads attacking limits.
If senators pass their own version and both sides refuse to retreat, the measure could end up in a House and Senate conference committee.
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...