Governor’s Meth Bill Sidelined; Rival Proposal Moves Ahead

Meth dealers combine the cold medicine pseudoephedrine with various other household ingredients to create a volatile concoction that sometimes explodes. (Credit flickr/trixieskips)

Meth dealers combine the cold medicine pseudoephedrine with various other household ingredients to create a volatile concoction that sometimes explodes. (Credit flickr/trixieskips)

House lawmakers are tussling over exactly how much of the cold medicine used to make meth Tennesseans should be able to buy each year.

A proposal backed by the governor would stop people from buying more than about two months’ worth of pseudoephedrine each year without a prescription.  But that measure got held up Tuesday in a place bills often languish and die—a subcommittee.  The subcommittee’s chairman, Tony Shipley, instead passed out his own, less restrictive bill.  Shipley said afterward that the governor’s measure wouldn’t have had enough votes.

In response, House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick told reporters Shipley had “made a terrible mistake by moving his bill ahead of the governor’s, and I don’t think it will be successful.”

Shipley also indicated his move was part of a broader agreement among members.  McCormick didn’t love that suggestion either: “I think that was an agreement completely made by Tony, by himself, that’s what I think.”

The tussle reflects a broader tension over pseudoephedrine: Police would like to bar over-the-counter sales altogether, in hopes of tamping down on the state’s meth problem.  But the pharmaceutical industry prefers to make sure its product is widely available.

Here’s a statement from the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which opposes requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine:

“In order to ensure that law-abiding consumers have access to a wide range of safe and effective, nonprescription treatment options, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association will always advocate for anti-meth solutions that target criminals, not honest Tennesseans… On the whole, the bills passed today are a positive and significant step in the battle against meth production in Tennessee.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Gov. Bill Haslam argued otherwise:

“We have a serious problem with meth production in Tennessee. The governor’s approach addresses the problem head on while balancing the impact on lawful consumers of pseudophedrine. He agrees with law enforcement that the limits in the bill that passed out of subcommittee today aren’t low enough to truly fight meth production in our state.”

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