Meth is back thanks to inaction E-mail
Written by Mark Nichols   

After a concerted effort by law enforcement that took years, it was starting to look like we had methamphetamine on the run. Now, without the support they need, law enforcement leaders say all that progress has been lost. Meth’s making a comeback - especially in Tennessee. So how bad is the situation?

“We’re in trouble in Tennessee, absolutely,” said Williamson County Sheriff Jeff Long, a member of the Tennessee Public Safety Coalition, which has lobbied for stricter meth laws.

“The figures now show that, according to the first three months of this year, Tennessee is No. 1 in the nation for meth use,” Long told reporters from the Tennessean newspaper.

A key defeat for law enforcement came in a recent legislative hearing when a bill to make pseudoephedrine a prescription-only medication was defeated.

“This used to be a regional problem. It started in the upper east and southeast and now has moved across the state, unfortunately,” Long said. “Shelby County’s number 2 now, a place that used to not report any labs.”

Tommy Farmer, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Methamphetamine and Pharmaceutical Task Force, said meth users are adept at circumventing limits on pseudoephedrine sales through a practice known as “smurfing.”

Smurfing describes the practice of recruiting multiple buyers to purchase the legal limit of pseudoephedrine for the meth cook to use.

“They’re going in and recruiting homeless, they’re recruiting unwitting elderly, they’re recruiting college kids,” Farmer said. “We’ve got a whole new cottage industry of smurfers.”

Meth investigators in Tennessee and elsewhere have lobbied to make pseudoephedrine prescription only. But the drug companies lobbied right back and with a lot more money.

Currently just two states, Oregon and Mississippi, require a prescription for all pseudoephedrine purchases.

“The implementation of prescription-only laws by Oregon and Mississippi was followed by declines in lab incidents,” a U.S. Government Accountability Office report says. “Law enforcement officials in Oregon and Mississippi attribute this

reduction in large part to the prescription-only approach.”

Long said the prescription-only defeat in the legislature will hurt law enforcement’s attempts to curb the drug abuse.

“We’re sadly disappointed because we know that is a way to combat the methamphetamine production,” Long said. “The states that have passed the law have reduced their labs by 80 percent or more.”

But when you’re up against drug companies, known to some as “big pharma,” in a lobbying battle, it’s kind of like bringing a feather duster to a gunfight.

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