Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced legislation to reduce the growing problem of methamphetamine production in Tennessee. The goal of the Tennessee Anti-Meth Production (TAMP) Act is to limit access to pseudoephedrine or ephedrine products to those who are using it illegally while not overburdening law-abiding Tennesseans who need temporary cold and sinus relief.
Haslam joined legislators, members of the Public Safety Subcabinet and key stakeholders to announce his proposal, which aligns commonly purchased amounts of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine with 30-day limits.
"Meth production is dangerous, threatens the safety of Tennesseans and destroys families," Haslam said. "This bill is aimed at fighting the production of meth while balancing access to effective medicines for the majority of Tennesseans who use them in the right way.
"We are targeting the so-called "smurfers' who buy from a variety of stores in small quantities until they have enough to manufacture meth. This proposal will not affect most people who use these products normally."
Currently, the most frequently purchased box size contains 2.4g of pseudoephedrine or ephedrine, and in 2012, the average Tennessee consumer bought 4.8g for the entire year.
Provisions of the governor's bill include the following:
* Individuals would be authorized to purchase up to 2.4g (the maximum recommended daily dose of 240mg for 10 days) of products containing pseudoephedrine or ephedrine in a 30-day period by presenting a valid ID to a pharmacist, which is the way state law currently works.
* If the consumer returns to purchase additional products, a pharmacist, at his or her discretion, may override the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx) system to allow individuals to purchase up to 4.8g (maximum recommended daily dose of 240mg for 20 days) in that same 30-day period.
* Anything above 4.8g in a 30-day period would require a prescription issued by a licensed physician, certified physician assistant, or authorized nurse.
According to NPLEx data from the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS), 97 percent of Tennesseans who bought cold medicine containing pseudoephedrine or ephedrine with a Tennessee driver's license during 2012 -- approximately 636,600 people -- bought less than 4.8g per month. The remaining 3 percent, about 19,700 individuals, purchased more than 4.8g per month.
Lab seizures and meth use have affected many aspects of Tennesseans' lives. Two hundred and sixty-six children were removed by the Department of Children's Services (DCS) from homes due to meth-related incidents in 2013 at an estimated cost of more than $7 million. The state spends approximately $2 million annually on meth lab clean-up, and in 2013, 1,691 labs were seized in Tennessee.
This proposal would effectively give Tennessee the lowest state limit in the United States. Two states, Oregon and Mississippi, require a prescription for all pseudoephedrine or ephedrine products. The current lowest state limits are Alaska and Minnesota, which limit the amount of pseudoephedrine or ephedrine that a person can buy to 6g per 30 days. The current limits in other states that neighbor Tennessee range from 7.2 to 9 grams per 30-day period.
The Public Safety Subcabinet Working Group includes commissioners of the departments of Safety and Homeland Security, Mental Health, Children's Services, Correction, Health and Military along with the chairman of the Board of Parole, the directors of the Governor's Highway Safety Office (Department of Transportation), Office of Criminal Justice Programs (Department of Finance and Administration), Law Enforcement Training Academy (Department of Commerce and Insurance) and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
The subcabinet working group has received additional support from the Tennessee Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, and the Center for Non-Profit Management.