To Target Meth, Tennessee Senate Speaker Warming To Prescription Rules

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey says one can argue the prescription requirement either way. Apart from meth, Tennessee also has a serious issue with prescription painkillers. So Ramsey doubts requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine will fix the meth problem. “That’s the reason I’ve been going back and forth on this. What I’m gonna tell you is law enforcement, everybody says this needs to be (done). Again, I am just shocked by the poll that says 65 percent of the people think that needs to be done.” Image: WPLN/Daniel Potter

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey says he’s grown more open to trying to stymie meth cooks by requiring a prescription for Sudafed, but that one can argue it either way. Apart from meth, Tennessee also has a serious issue with prescription painkillers. So Ramsey doubts a prescription rule will fix the meth problem. “That’s the reason I’ve been going back and forth on this. What I’m gonna tell you is law enforcement, everybody says this needs to be (done). Again, I am just shocked by the poll that says 65 percent of the people think that needs to be done.” Image: WPLN/Daniel Potter

Tennessee Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey says he’s grown more open to requiring a prescription for cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine.  It’s a key ingredient for drug dealers making meth.

More than a dozen rural Tennessee towns have passed laws trying to clamp down on pseudoephedrine sales.  But this week the state’s attorney general opined (PDF of the opinion here) such laws don’t hold up, meaning only the state can require a prescription.

A new Vanderbilt poll out Wednesday (PDF here) says 65 percent of registered voters support such a law – and that’s surprising to Lt. Gov. Ramsey:

“That’s amazing to me, really.  That makes me feel better, because I have evolved on this issue, from thinking why should 99 percent of the people be punished for the one percent that abuse it?  But if you’re in northeast Tennessee – and I guess across the state, but I live there – it is unbelievable.”

Ramsey says he hasn’t fully made up his mind; if a new law drives gangs to import meth instead, he says that’s not good either.

This week Vanderbilt University released results from a poll of several hundred registered voters in Tennessee, saying roughly two-thirds support requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine. (Credit Vanderbilt Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions)

This week Vanderbilt University released results from a poll of several hundred registered voters in Tennessee, saying roughly two-thirds support requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine. (Credit Vanderbilt Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions)

Disputed results

Some pharmaceutical interests have challenged Vanderbilt’s poll results,  and also argued a prescription rule won’t solve the problem, like in this statement from the Consumer Healthcare Products Association’s Elizabeth Funderburk:

“When presented with the full scope of this complex issue – which includes the fact that the large majority of methamphetamine is imported into this country and imposing a prescription requirement on law abiding citizens will do nothing to address the demand for meth – Tennesseans oppose legislation that would require them to take time off of work to visit a doctor for cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine.”

To that, one police chief said he wants lawmakers to “quit listening to lobbyists.”

Pulaski

Some of the towns passing their own prescription requirements are so small they don’t even actually have a pharmacy, but that’s not the case in Pulaski, about an hour south of Nashville.  Mayor Pat Ford ticks off a list of national chains as well as a local drugstore, saying pharmacists were thrilled when Pulaski’s aldermen passed the law two months ago:

“I mean they were ectastic we were able to get that done, because it takes it off of their shoulders.  I mean, they were having to question these people, you know, what are your symptoms?  It’s all about the smurfing.”

Smurfing is an illegal workaround for meth cooks, since the state limits how much pseudoephedrine one person can buy.  They get addicts, or sometimes unwitting accomplices like college kids or homeless people, to go into stores and pick up more of the cold medicine for a few extra bucks.

Ford says when Pulaski officials reconvene after the holidays, they’ll take a hard look at where the attorney general’s opinion leaves them.


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