Tennessee Cities Fight Meth By Clamping Down On Cold Medicine, But Lawyers Urge Caution

In Tennessee, pseudoephedrine-based drugs are kept behind the pharmacist's counter and sales are tracked in an electronic database. Credit: Shawnblog/ Flickr

In Tennessee, pseudoephedrine-based drugs are kept behind the pharmacist’s counter and sales are tracked in an electronic database to deter meth production. Credit: Shawnblog/ Flickr

Local laws to tamp down on methamphetamine production may end up getting some Tennessee cities into a legal wrangle.  A state attorneys group is warning the laws may have gone too far.

Seven small cities, clustered west of Chattanooga, have passed laws requiring a prescription for cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine — a key ingredient in meth.

Ironically, some of the towns don’t even have a drugstore. Still, officials say to combat meth they need to be on the same page.

Now, a group which offers legal advice to cities says the requirements may be for naught.

Earlier this month, the Tennessee Municipal Attorneys Association sent a letter to its 118 members across the state, urging caution in approving the laws.

Dennis Huffer directs the association. He says cities may be overstepping their authority– and possibly setting themselves up for lawsuits.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some action by somebody to do something about it if cities go ahead and pass these ordinances.”

Huffer says he’s heard pharmaceutical companies are asking questions about the laws.

The letter sent by his group encourages cities to wait for a Tennessee Attorney General’s opinion on whether state law would supersede these local ordinances.

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The red circles surround Franklin, Grundy, Coffee, and Meigs counties, in which cities have passed or are considering prescription-only ordinances. In 2010, the counties reported 70, 39, 86, and 35 meth lab incidents respectively. Credit: Tennessee Methamphetamine and Pharmaceutical Task Force.

The city of Manchester has requested an opinion and shelved its proposed ordinance for the time being. Still, other cities are moving forward. The town of Decatur is set vote on the prescription requirement in early August.

Approved Prescription Requirement
Franklin County: Cowan, Decherd, Estill Springs, Huntland, and Winchester
Grundy County: Tracy City and Monteagle

Considering Prescription Requirement
Coffee County: Manchester- Awaiting Attorney General’s opinion
Meigs County: Decatur- Final vote August 13th

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