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Police: New laws could help deter meth

Caitlin Rickard crickard@lebanondemocrat.com • Dec 17, 2015 at 6:02 PM

Methamphetamine has become a rising problem for law enforcement in the Wilson County area.

Lebanon police have found four meth labs since the beginning of the year, with two a piece coming on back-to-back weeks in early February and found in locations ranging from a backpack to motels.

Wilson County Sheriff Robert Bryan and Lebanon police Chief Scott Bowen have both expressed concerns on the growing issue and discussed the dangers of the drug and how it is affecting officers, children and citizens of the area, among other problems.

Bowen shared a letter he received from Winchester police Chief Dennis Young, highlighting Tennessee’s battle with meth and facts surrounding recent proposed legislation that could require a prescription to obtain pseudoephedrine from pharmacies, as well as others that would limit pseudoephedrine-purchasing amounts. Pseudoephedrine is a common, over-the-counter drug used to treat colds and other sinus ailments and is an ingredient in meth.

Bowen said Young has been on the forefront of the meth issue and has relayed information to groups such as The Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police. He said he spoke to Young a few weeks ago after he saw Lebanon’s growing meth reports and Young explained he’s done a lot of research on the problem.

“This past year, 18 cities adopted ordinances making pseudoephedrine a prescription product and experienced a 44 to 70 percent reduction in meth labs in those regions,” Young said in the letter. “In Scott County, District Attorney

Lori Phillips-Jones got the pharmacies in her district to voluntarily sell only the liquid gel cap pseudoephedrine product Nexafed, which is not a preferred product for meth cooks, and has seen a drastic reduction in meth production as well as a 75 percent drop in over-the-counter purchases of pseudoephedrine, showing the amount of pseudoephedrine being diverted in her district to methamphetamine.”

Young then stated facts, according to EPIC as a source, from a lab seizure comparison over 10 years that compared Tennessee versus Mississippi and Oregon, who have both passed prescription legislation for pseudoephedrine.

“Mississippi, with the passage of prescription legislation in 2010 has seen a steady decline in meth production,” Young said. “In 2013, Mississippi is reporting over 90 percent reduction in Meth Labs since inception of their new law.”

For example, Mississippi showed to have, on average, 900 cases in 2009 and 2010, but after passage of prescription law, Mississippi dropped to around 200 cases in 2012 and only 90 cases in 2013. Oregon remains on the lower end, reporting 632 cases of meth in 2004, which is down to only five cases last year.

“Vanderbilt University conducted a poll of registered voters on the support of statewide prescription legislation and 65 percent of those polled support the passage of this legislation,” Young said. “This poll has been reaffirmed by other polls conducted since with the same results.”

Bowen said he thought the data spoke for itself and it was time to make a change.

“To me, the current system is just not working. I think we need to try to look at making it prescription only,” Bowen said. “And in doing that I hope that we can have the same successes as the other states.”

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