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Anti-meth bills contain several options

Caitlin Rickard crickard@lebanondemocrat.com • Updated Mar 15, 2014 at 1:00 AM

With methamphetamine on the rise not only locally, but also at the state level, several bills are currently under consideration in the Tennessee General Assembly to help combat the growing trend.

Since the legislature reconvened in January, multiple bills were proposed and passed around committees and subcommittees between the House and Senate, and some could possibly put stricter regulations on meth and its precursors, such as the decongestant pseudoephedrine. 

At the forefront, a bill from Gov. Bill Haslam would reduce and limit the maximum amount of products containing pseudoephedrine that could be bought from 9 grams to 4.8 grams during a 30-day period. The targeted amount is the same amount contained in 40 12-hour tablets.

The bill was filed for introduction at the legislature’s start in January and has since seen some movement in both the House and Senate.

Most recently on Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 7-1 to pass Haslam’s bill that would cap pseudoephedrine purchased at two 20-tablet boxes a month and six boxes a year.

Committee members said Haslam’s bill reducing the limit allowed but not requiring a prescription only would help to strike a balance by disabling smurfing while also treating those who need the drug.

The bill is now on the Senate Health Committee’s calendar for Wednesday.

Haslam’s legislation does not deal with prescriptions, but simply reduces the amount of the decongestant consumers are eligible to buy within a time frame.

However, there are also bills that do address possibly a stricter method, including making pseudoephedrine available at a pharmacy by prescription only.

Legislation that would make pseudoephedrine a prescription drug is mostly favored by law enforcement officials who say that prescription rules would help stop smurfing by making one of the main ingredients in meth harder to get and thus more inconvenient for meth manufacturers.

Multiple prescription-only bills were placed on the Criminal Justice Subcommittee in the House for Wednesday and the Senate Health Committee. The Criminal Justice Subcommittee in the House has heard them several times already, and the conversation appears to remain ongoing on the topic.

Additionally, other bills pertaining to meth are also circulating within the assembly.

One bill would require a person convicted of manufacturing meth to serve at least 180 days in confinement and a person convicted of possession of meth to serve at least 30 days in confinement. Since Tuesday, it was been referred to health committees in both the House and Senate.

Though it is uncertain what bills will make it to Haslam’s desk, there are numerous options lawmakers have as meth arrests throughout the state continue to increase.

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