Beavers: Prescription-only drug won't help combat meth

Beavers: Prescription-only drug won't help combat meth

July 26th, 2013 by By Sen. Mae Beavers in Opinion Columns

Local governments in Tennessee, at both the city and county level, are on a new mission to curtail the rights of hard-working Tennessee families by further regulating the sale of cold and allergy medicine containing pseudoephedrine. This is a concerning trend and is not only bad policy, it turns out it is also against state law.

This is not the first time this issue has come up in Tennessee. In 2011, similar attempts by many localities to take the problem into their own hands caused the Tennessee General Assembly to pass the "I Hate Meth Act." As the author of this act, I can personally attest that this law was intended as a comprehensive response to our state's meth problem, with the secondary function of supplanting any attempt by localities to act on this issue in the future. The localized piecemeal approach taking place right now is exactly what we were trying to avoid with the passage of the act.

And for good reason, prescription legislation for pseudoephedrine is not a good policy choice for Tennesseans. At its core, it is a penalty for honest people who depend on affordable medicine to treat their common cold and allergy symptoms. Proponents claim this restriction will limit meth use, but as was made clear during legislative testimony, this claim is backed only by misinformation and statistical manipulation.

When addressing illegal meth use, there are two accepted policy choices: supply-side policies, which try to limit the supply of illegal drugs, and demand-side policies, which try to limit the demand for illegal drugs. The real problem with a local prescription ordinance for pseudoephedrine is that it addresses neither the supply, nor the demand for, methamphetamine.

Consider the DEA's recent statement that over 80 percent of our country's meth comes from Mexico. Some law-enforcement groups put that number closer to 95 percent. Domestic restrictions on pseudoephedrine sales will do nothing to affect this supply. Nor will such laws affect demand. Meth addiction is a disease - one that will not be solved with additional restrictions on the sale of common cold and allergy medicine to legitimate allergy sufferers. Recent statistics from Oregon are telling. Meth abuse continues unabated despite passage of a prescription ordinance for pseudoephedrine in 2006.

What's worse, these policies have invited a host of other problems into the area as violent drug cartels take over the local drug trade in order to fulfill the ever-present demand. Just last year meth was cited by law enforcement agents across Oregon as the main cause of violent crime and property crime in the state. These groups are a living testament to the ineffectiveness of ill-thought-out policies with unintended consequences. It is essential that the people of Tennessee understand that prescription ordinances for cold medicine will cure none of these social evils. Meth will continue to enter the state, criminals will continue to abuse it, and families will continue to suffer.

So before any additional cities or municipalities attempt to pass their own prescription ordinances for cold and allergy medicine containing pseudoephedrine, they should think about the real goals and consequences of their actions. With a little research, they will realize that such a policy is not only ineffective; it is also against state law.

Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mount Juliet, represents District 17 in the Tennessee State Senate.