House rejects stricter version of anti-meth bill
NASHVILLE (AP) — The House on Wednesday refused to go along with the Senate version of Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to set tighter annual limits on the amount of cold and allergy medicines used to make meth that can be bought without a prescription.
The lower chamber voted 80-10 to reject the Senate version, meaning the legislation is likely headed for a conference committee to try to work out differences.
The House version would set an annual limit of 28.8 grams, or a five-month supply, without a prescription. The Senate bill would set the limit at half that amount.
Several House members responded angrily to an attempt by bill sponsors to conform to the Senate version calling for 14.4-gram annual limit. Some suggested that it would be preferable for no bill to pass than to approve the tighter restrictions.
“They can come around, or we can go home or do nothing,” said Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah.
Others expressed opposition to the overall bill, arguing that most of the meth coming into the state originates in Mexico and not from makeshift labs in Tennessee.
“We think another inhibition on law-abiding citizens is going to be the magic silver bullet? It’s not,” said Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden.
“I don’t want a limitation of 28.8; I don’t want a limitation of 14.4,” Holt said. “I want freedom.”
Haslam’s office has noted that 268 children were removed from their homes last year because of meth-related incidents and nearly 1,700 meth labs were seized.
The governor’s anti-meth proposal was introduced just weeks after a Vanderbilt University poll in December showed that two in three Tennesseans would support requiring a prescription to buy medicines used to make meth.
But the attempts to place restrictions on the sale of medicines like Sudafed that contain pseudoephedrine have been strongly opposed by the pharmaceutical industry, and the bills have been the subject of heavy debate in both chambers of the Legislature.
The House version originally passed on a 81-17 vote last week, while the Senate passed its version on a 23-8 vote Tuesday.
According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, 1,685 meth labs were seized in Tennessee last year.