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Meth tracking method misses mark locally

By Xavier Smith [email protected] • Dec 17, 2015 at 7:00 PM

The recently adopted method of tracking pseudoephedrine purchases throughout Tennessee shows signs of flaws.

The National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx) system, fully adopted by the state in Jan. 2012, is a major step in slowing down the manufacture of methamphetamine, but the system is not perfect.

The system uses real-time, stop-sale technology to block excessive pseudoephedrine sales at sales counters and provides law enforcement agencies with data that could be used to apprehend people involved in meth activities. 

Pseudoephedrine is one of the main ingredients needed to produce meth and is the active ingredient in many cold and allergy medicines.

The system checks the personal information given to clerks against nearby states to monitor how much the person has bought.

A person is not allowed to buy more than 3.6 grams of pseudoephedrine a day, or 9 grams a month. When a person reaches that limit, the system blocks the sale.

The system incorporates the Tennessee Drug Offender Registry, and anyone with previous meth-related offenses, are not permitted to purchase medication that contains pseudoephedrine, if the system worked perfectly.

Randi Dodd, 32, of Carthage, was charged with eight counts of purchase of immediate meth precursor earlier this year after she purchased pseudoephedrine products on eight different occasions throughout Lebanon.

Dodd, at the time of her purchases, had two convictions on the TBI Methamphetamine Database from 2011, according to the Lebanon Police Department case report. Dodd’s ability to make the purchases may point to holes in the system. 

TBI Public Information Officer Josh DeVine said the flaws are more than likely due to the NPLEx system and not the negligence of law officials.

“We simply supply the info to Appriss to enter into the system that alerts the cashier.” DeVine said. “We are not responsible for anything at the point of purchase.”

“Obviously, we’re always looking for the channels that people create for meth. Our officials are always working to limit the purchase of meth ingredients.”

Smurfing is one of the popular channels for people to make illegal purchases of pseudoephedrine. Smurfing involves purchasing pseudoephedrine products for other individuals’ use. Smurfing is illegal and plays a role in the high number of meth seizures in Wilson County.

Wilson County had the fourth-highest rate of methamphetamine seizures through May, according to a report from the Tennessee Methamphetamine and Pharmaceutical Task Force released earlier this year.

Lebanon has a hotbed for meth due to its number of hotels and pharmacies, which includes Walgreens. The Walgreens on South Cumberland leads the region in the number of pseudoephedrine purchases and blocked purchases. 

Walgreens spokesman Phil Caruso said in a statement released earlier this year that Walgreens takes the sale of pseudoephedrine products seriously and cooperates with authorities in monitoring efforts. He said Walgreens follows all laws and regulations regarding sales.

Lebanon Police meth technician Chris Luna said they have found about a dozen meth labs so far this year, with three of those being mobile labs. 

A local Walgreens representative could not be reached for comment. 

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