War on meth could be gaining momentum
Local meth ordinances requiring a prescription to purchase drugs containing pseudoephedrine remain in effect in local municipalities, following a recent opinion from Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper that the city ordinances violate state law.
Local meth ordinances require a prescription for the purchase of pseudoephedrine-containing drugs.
Winchester Police Chief Dennis Young says the numbers don’t lie — the ordinances requiring a prescription work.
“The ordinance has been successful,” he said. “With the passage of these ordinances, communities across this state experienced a 40 percent to 70 percent, reduction in meth labs, reduction in crime rates, 100 percent reduction in the criminal enterprise known as smurfing, and more importantly a reduction in the number of children being placed into foster care.”
Despite Cooper’s opinion, a growing number of Tennesseans seem to agree with Young that something needs to be done to combat meth with many in favor of requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine-containing drugs.
According to a recent Vanderbilt University poll, 65 percent of 860 registered voters would accept prescriptions to fight meth production. These unexpected results have some lawmakers rethinking their stance on the issue.
In the past Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey has been a staunch opponent of requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine-containing drugs, but he may be softening his stance.
Regarding the Vanderbilt poll results, Ramsey has said, “That’s amazing to me, really. That makes me feel better, because I have evolved on this issue, from thinking why should 99 percent of the people be punished for the one percent that abuse it?”
Ramsey says he recognizes the meth problem in Tennessee and although he hasn’t made up his mind on the prescription only issue, he’s grown more open to the possibility of requiring a prescription for cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine.
Young is encouraged by the poll findings and the shift in Ramsey’s thinking.
“The Vanderbilt University poll, just released this week showing a 65 percent support of registered voters, reaffirms the fact that approximately 85 percent of Tennesseans do not purchase cold and allergy products containing pseudoephedrine/ephedrine,” he said. “So, the independent and unbiased poll by Vanderbilt is very helpful in our cause, it sends a strong message to the legislature, and Lt. Gov. Ramsey’s recent comments are very encouraging, as he is known as a mover in the state Legislature.”
Local and state law enforcement have pushed for years for a state law requiring a prescription for drugs such as Sudafed that contain pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in the production of meth.
They have had little success in getting a state law pushed through, due to stiff opposition from pharmaceutical companies and organizations such as the Consumer Healthcare Products Association.
Law enforcement agencies and local municipalities say the war is far from over, and they will continue to battle meth in their districts by any means possible.
The long-time advocates of making pseudoephedrinecontaining products prescription-only may be gaining momentum and supporters with data collected by municipalities enacting ordinances and support from voters.
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, who heads Tennessee’s Fourth Congressional District and is a physician, said this week that he would support a law requiring a prescription for the purchase of drugs containing pseudoephedrine.
DesJarlais said he does not favor these types of drugs and believes there are better alternatives for people. He said research shows that only a small percentage of Tennesseans use pseudoephedrine drugs to treat symptoms, and few would be impacted by a law making them available through prescription only.
DesJarlais met with local law enforcement on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of getting a state law passed banning the sale of pseudoephedrine drugs without a prescription. He said he plans to meet with Daryl Issa, Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, to discuss the possibility of a field hearing on the matter.
Young said the meeting with DesJarlais is just one step in the continued fight to protect his community from the ravages of meth.
“We met with Congressman DesJarlais for the purpose of communicating the impact of dealing with the national epidemic on a local level, along with the state of methamphetamine production in our community and state of Tennessee,” he said. “As a doctor, he understands our concerns, as does the overwhelming majority of the medical professionals in our state and nation.”
Young said the new Vanderbilt poll and support from lawmakers reflects what they have seen in every community they have visited in this state.
“They want this madness to stop,” he said. “The silent majority has been silent to long in this state, and the Vanderbilt poll truly reflects what we have experienced over the last seven months as we have traveled across this state.”
Local officials stand by their Stop Meth campaign and say they will continue to fight the meth epidemic on a local and state level.
“As law enforcement we have seen the positive change, but more importantly the community has felt the difference and know we, together, have made a difference as a community,” Young said. “This is our community and we live here. As a citizen of this community and chief of police, it my duty to protect the citizens of my city, therefore I do not have the luxury of choice.
“I must and will continue to fight for the public safety of my citizens. This campaign and the effort of this campaign is not dead, it has just begun.”