This fall, Tennessee meth fighters were gaining steam, and 18 towns across the state - especially in Southeast Tennessee - had voted to require meth's key ingredient, pseudoephedrine, be sold only by prescription.
But on Dec. 6, the state's attorney general issued a legal opinion saying those municipal bans violate a 2011 state law that allows allergy medicines with pseudoephedrine to be sold over the counter with just a customer signature. The law limits each sale to 9 grams a month, but meth cooks get around the law by sending crews of people dubbed "smurfs" to make the buys.
With the AG's ruling, law enforcement authorities feel the pharmaceutical lobbies had won again. Between May 5, 2009, and Aug. 6, 2013, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which represents major pharmaceutical manufacturers, spent between $370,000 and $780,000 to lobby against requiring prescriptions for the allergy medications, according to disclosures required by the Tennessee Ethics Commission.
The group in February released a poll of 600 voters stating that 56 percent of Volunteer State voters opposed requiring prescriptions for pseudoephedrine and 36 percent supported it. The lobbying group did not disclose the wording of the question.
But then Vanderbilt University did another poll and released it last week. To a pointed question making it clear that the drugs containing pseudoephedrine also are used in meth-making, 65 percent of 860 voters and poll respondents said they supported required prescriptions.
Now that new Vanderbilt poll has Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey rethinking the issue. He said last week he's not ready to commit to a prescription requirement, but he has "gone from being against it to very, very open to it."
Tennessee, by the way, is among the top four states in the nation for annual meth lab discoveries.
Don't give up the meth fight, officers.
So much for lists of best cities. What the moniker really means, apparently, is most affluent.
Movoto Real Estate, a nationwide real estate company with offices in 30 states, just proclaimed Signal Mountain to be the best city among 105 Tennessee municipalities with more than 5,000 residents.
Don't misunderstand. Signal is a great place to live. It's beautiful, quiet, laid back. But best? If you want anything that doesn't come from a convenience store, the mountain's one small grocery store or Ace Hardware -- and you're not willing to pay about half again what you would pay down the mountain -- then get ready ready for an hour's ride in the car.
But the report cites Signal's "lowest jobless rate" and second-lowest crime rate. Signal also came in near the top of its class in education, with a high school diploma attainment rate of 96 percent. All true.
Of course, there's a reason for the low jobless rate, and that is the town's cost of living.
The report states the average rent of $1,240 a month (Yes, you read that right.) is among the highest in Tennessee. (And mortgage rates can't be far off from a "highest average".)
Ergo: If Signal residents find themselves jobless, they have to move off the mountain pretty quickly. It's no wonder then why the jobless rate is so low.
All that said: Signal is God's country.