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New law called ‘step’ in fight to stop meth

A new state law that targets the production of methamphetamine is being called “a step in the right direction” by local law enforcement.
“I think the biggest thing that is promising for us is we now have additional limitations on the purchase of pseudoephedrine,” said Carter County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Mike Little, adding that those limitations are what make him “so happy about this legislation.”
The new law, which took effect on July 1, limits the purchase of products containing pseudoephedrine by a single individual to not more than 5.76 grams in any period of 30 consecutive days, or no more than 28.8 grams in any one-year period.
The law also prohibits pharmacies from selling more than those amounts to a single individual.
A law already in place restricting pseudoephedrine purchases requires buyers to provide identification, which Little said allows officers to track which individuals are purchasing large amounts. He said the new law won’t pose any hardships for individuals buying pseudoephedrine products for legitimate purposes.
“In Tennessee in 2013 we sold in excess of 3.4 million grams of pseudoephedrine,” Little said, citing information recently released by the Tennessee Meth Task Force. “Of the 730,000 individual buyers who purchased pseudoephedrine in 2013, 97.3 percent of those people purchased less than 14.4 grams for the entire year.”
The new changes to the law will affect that remaining 2.7 percent of pseudoephedrine purchasers, Little said. “Roughly 45,000 (2.7 percent) of those 730,000 individuals bought more than half of pseudoephedrine sold in the state in 2013,” he said. “This law is extremely focused on those individuals who are purchasing pseudoephedrine for meth production.”
Tennessee is not the only place where pseudoephedrine sales are high, Little said. “Nationwide, in 2013, pseudoephedrine sales exceeded $300 billion. It’s hard for me to believe we have a $300 billion allergy problem in this country.”
Targeting the sales of pseudoephedrine will help decrease meth production, in Little’s opinion.
“Pseudoephedrine is the one thing you have to have to make meth,” he said. “Everything else that is used in the production can be substituted for one thing or another but you have to have pseudoephedrine. Without that, you cannot make meth.”
Little called the new restrictions a win for law enforcement.
“It is a huge win for us. It is a huge step in the right direction,” he said. “The Tennessee Sheriff’s Association was instrumental in lobbying for this.”
Tracking individuals who purchase large quantities of pseudoephedrine has been one of the keys to the success the Carter County Sheriff’s Department has enjoyed in its efforts to combat meth.
“Carter County is consistently ranked in the top five for meth lab seizures in the state,” Little said. “I don’t think that means we have a worse meth problem, but it shows we are very proactive in finding these labs. Between 2009 and 2013, Carter County ranked No. 1 in the state during that four-year period in the number of meth case prosecutions.”
According to Little, during that time frame, Carter County prosecuted 1,240 methamphetamine cases. The next highest-ranked county was Shelby County – where Memphis is located – with 897 methamphetamine cases.
“That all goes back to targeting people who are buying pseudoephedrine for meth production,” Little said. “That has led us to the success we have had.”
But meth continues to be a statewide problem, he added. He pointed out that in 2013 the state spent $1.6 billion for lab cleanups, as well as $14 million to relocate and care for children removed from their homes after their parents or guardians being arrested on meth charges or labs being found in the homes.