Hamilton County Commissioner Joe Graham invited a state methamphetamine expert to brief colleagues Thursday on the annual costs of methamphetamine use in the area.
Graham is proposing that commissioners vote next week to ask the Tennessee General Assembly to make pseudoephedrine, the key ingredient in meth, a controlled substance. Then residents would have to have a prescription to obtain cold medicines containing it.
Tennessee Meth Task Force Director Tommy Farmer did not take a position on pseudoephedrine as a controlled substance, but he said there are three or four methods for cooking it.
"In all of those, the common denominator is pseudoephedrine," Farmer said. He said that pseudoephedrine was a controlled substance before 1975. These days, he added, there are 137 alternative cold treatment products on the market.
Graham said similar moves in Mississippi and Oregon greatly have reduced costs associated with methamphetamine labs and their cleanup in those states.
"The County Commission funds the sheriff's department, and the sheriff's department takes care of these methamphetamine-contaminated properties," he said.
Commissioner Greg Beck said he opposes the measure.
"This would put a hardship on poor people," Beck said. "I think some of this substance is also in cough drops. Everybody can't afford to go to the doctor."
Commissioner Warren Mackey signaled that he'd rather spend money on schools rather than meth lab cleanup.
"I realize this is a state issue, but I think this a way Hamilton County can show some leadership," Graham said.
The commission will vote on the resolution Wednesday.