Comments Off on City Methamphetamine laws meeting resistance

More than 60 percent of all inmates in the Franklin County Jail are incarcerated due to methamphetamine-related offenses, according to Sheriff Tim Fuller.

Additionally, half of all pseudoephedrine sales in the county are not being used for allergy and cold symptoms, said Winchester Police Chief Dennis Young.

“Fifty percent of all products that contain pseudoephedrine sold in Franklin County are purchased by those connected to the production of methamphetamine,” he said. “This is not acceptable here and shouldn’t be accepted by our society.”

To push back on meth production, five Franklin County cities recently passed a law requiring a prescription for cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine — a key ingredient in meth.

Two cities in neighboring Grundy County have also followed suit and the city of Manchester, after considering similar action, tabled a motion by vice mayor Ryan French on the advice of city attorney Gerald Ewell.

Five Franklin County cities recently passed laws requiring a prescription for cold medi-cines containing pseudoephedrine. Tullahoma officials have said they will wait until a de-cision on the law’s legality is issued by the state’s attorney general. -- Staff Photo by Ian Skotte

Five Franklin County cities recently passed laws requiring a prescription for cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine. Tullahoma officials have said they will wait until a decision on the law’s legality is issued by the state’s attorney general.

 

According to the Tennessee Municipal Attorneys Association, these ordinances may have gone too far too soon, and cities that ban over-the-counter pseudoephedrine sales could be opening themselves up to possible lawsuits.

And, all that legislation could be null and void.

“We believe that it is likely that a court considering the legality of a local jurisdiction’s attempt to require a prescription for an immediate methamphetamine precursor would find that the local measure is superseded by and/or contrary to the State statute and, therefore, void,” according to an opinion written by Michael Hess with the legal firm Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell and Berkowitz, PC.

“The firm cannot decide that any ordinance requiring a prescription would be in violation to state law; however, we do believe it likely that a court could reasonably rule to such effect.”

Fuller and Young disagree.

“It takes a grassroots effort to get something like this done,” said Fuller.

“We are totally within our rights,” added Young, who said he has worked with Winchester’s lawyer to ensure they are on legal ground with the ban.

“We are fighting the pharmaceutical companies who don’t want the sale of pseudoephedrine to stop,” he said.

“It’s got to stop.”

State Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet calls the legislation by cities like Winchester, “bad public policy.”

Beavers is the author of the “I Hate Meth Act,” a law that won’t allow pharmacies to sell to a person more than 3.6 grams of pseudoephedrine per day or more than 9 grams per 30-day period, unless the person has a valid prescription.

Pharmacies also have to log information that has to be sent at least every 24 hours to the Tennessee Meth Information System database operated by law enforcement.

In a recent editorial, Beavers wrote, “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.

She quotes a Drug Enforcement Administration report that found 80 percent of all the country’s meth comes from Mexico.

“She’s drinking the Kool-aid,” said Young. “She isn’t listening to law enforcement because the meth isn’t coming from Mexico…it’s all right here.”

Laws passed by cities in Franklin and Grundy counties, according to Beavers, are a violation of existing law.

“The main concern is that cities do not have the authority to do this,” said Dennis Huffer, a member of the Tennessee Municipal Attorneys Association.

Huffer recommends any other city wait for authoritative advice from the state attorney general before proceeding to do something they possibly can’t do.

“The state law appears to leave little ground for cities to act in this area,” he said.

Manchester is currently waiting for the attorney general to opine on the law before moving forward with any laws on its own.

“We could fix this with one strike of the pen,” said Young. “The state is losing $1.6 billion every year to fight meth. Our towns are losing $4.5 million every year just to clean up meth.

“By making meth prescription only, we could stop children from being subjected to pain…It’s a no-brainer for me.”

Sheriff Fuller said residents would still be able to obtain medication for their allergies.

“There are more than 137 types of over-the-counter medications for cold and allergies that don’t contain pseudoephedrine,” he said.

Oddly, some of the towns don’t even have a drugstore.

“At this time we do not have a pharmacy open in those jurisdictions, but it’s still imperative that we cover all of Franklin County to make sure we don’t leave a back door open,” said Young.

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