Gov. Haslam turns attention to meth problem

Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 9:40 am

At last, Tennessee’s methamphetamine problem is coming to the front burner.

State legislators have been diddling over the issue for months, but now Gov. Bill Haslam has entered the discussion. The governor’s personal involvement suggests that the Republican-led legislature will take notice.

The governor called last week for tighter restrictions on the sale of pseudoephedrine, a drug which is contained in common decongestants but which also is a key component of meth.

He didn’t go all out, stopping short of calling for a prescription requirement for all pseudoephedrine purchases. His suggestion amounts to a compromise: He proposed a prescription requirement for buying more than a 10-day supply of medicines containing the drug.

A 10-day supply is 20 pills, a common form of packaging. Haslam suggested allowing a pharmacist to sell a second 20-tablet box within a month, at his discretion, but additional purchases would require a prescription.

There’s a huge debate over the effectiveness of this kind of restriction. Each side in the debate can roll out statistics to support its viewpoint.

Obviously, we must do more to stem the epidemic. The current bulwark is a computer system that tracks pseudoephedrine sales to assure that one person’s purchases are limited. But meth makers simply hire others — an “army,” one law enforcement officer said — to make purchases for them.

That tactic would seem likely to defeat the governor’s plan, too. How do you keep an army of people from buying a legal product?

The important point here is that Tennessee’s meth epidemic is coming to the attention of top state leaders. The solution may have to be action more drastic than we’ve considered.

-The Paris (Tenn.) Post-Intelligencer

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