New law seeks to curb meth use

By Jeff Whitten

The “I Hate Meth Act,” passed by the legislature and signed into law last month by Gov. Bill Haslam took effect on July 1.

The law requires pharmacies to  submit information on sales of methamphetamine precursors, such as ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, to an electronic tracking system called the national precursor log exchange (NLPLEx). This system will be available and can be used free of charge by pharmacists by January 1, 2012, when this requirement takes effect.

These meth precursors are found in many over-the-counter cold medicines.

These records must include the name of the purchaser, purchase identification type and number, such as driver’s    license number, the date purchased, the name and quantity of the product purchased and the dispensing pharmacist or pharmacy.

The system would generate a stop sale alert if the purchaser buys more than three grams a day or nine grams of pseudoephedrine in a 30-day period.

However, the pharmacist may complete the sale if he has a reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm.

This information will be transferred to the Tennessee Methamphetamine Information System for the purpose of enforcing federal and state laws against methamphetamine.

Present law prohibits selling more than three packages containing any of these precursors to anyone in a 30-day period, unless they have a valid prescription.

Pharmacists are only required by current law to keep a written record of pseudoephedrine purchases that includes the signature of the purchaser and to require a government issued photo identification from the purchaser.

The legislation also makes it aggravated child abuse, neglect or endangerment to expose a child to processes intended to result in the manufacture of methamphetamine.

The new law also mandates a study of methamphetamine use in Tennessee and anti-meth programs in other states, particularly ones that require a prescription in order to buy any product containing a methamphetamine precursor.

McNairy County Sheriff Guy Buck  sees the new law as a step forward but would like for it to go further.

“We’re excited about anything that helps fight meth,” said McNairy County Sheriff Guy Buck.

However, Buck would like to have seen the law go further and make pseudoephedrine available by prescription only. 

“As long as there is pseudoephedrine, there will be meth,” he said. 

Pharmacist Heather Cooper of East Main Pharmacy expressed mixed feelings about the problem and its solution.

“I don’t know that there’s a good answer,” she said.

Cooper said that making pseudoephedrine available only by prescription would make it harder for people to who legitimately need it but is also the only way to prevent its being obtained for unlawful uses.