Gammons urges support of proposed anti-meth legislation

By Tilly Dillehay, Editor

February 10, 2014

Governor Haslam recently proposed a new bill, which aims to cut down on methamphetamine production in Tennessee by restricting access to pseudoephedrine.

The highlights of the bill are as follows:

• Individuals would be authorized to purchase up to 2.4g (the maximum recommended daily dose of 240mg for 10 days) of products containing pseudoephedrine or ephedrine in a 30-day period by presenting a valid ID to a pharmacist, which is the way state law currently works.

• If the consumer returns to purchase additional products, a pharmacist, at his or her discretion, may override the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx) system to allow individuals to purchase up to 4.8g (maximum recommended daily dose of 240mg for 20 days) in that same 30-day period.

• Anything above 4.8g in a 30-day period would require a prescription issued by a licensed physician, certified physician assistant, or authorized nurse.

This proposal would effectively give Tennessee the lowest state limit in the United States. Two states, Oregon and Mississippi, require a prescription for all pseudoephedrine or ephedrine products. The current lowest state limits are Alaska and Minnesota, which limit the amount of pseudoephedrine or ephedrine that a person can buy to 6g per 30 days. The current limits in other states that neighbor Tennessee range from 7.2 to 9 grams per 30-day period.

Macon County Sheriff Mark Gammons responded to this proposal, saying that although he is grateful to the Gov. Haslam and other legislators for addressing the issue, he believes this measure is simply not strict enough.

He says that 2.4g per month is still more than most people need.

According to NPLEx data from the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS), 97 percent of Tennesseans who bought cold medicine containing pseudoephedrine or ephedrine with a Tennessee driver's license during 2012 – approximately 636,600 people – bought less than 4.8g per month. The remaining 3 percent, about 19,700 individuals, purchased more than 4.8g per month. In 2012, the average Tennessee consumer bought 4.8g for the entire year.

Gammons would prefer to see a 2.4g limit per year, rather than per month, and for pharmacists to have the freedom to prescribe more at their own discretion.

He says that he also speaks for the Tennessee Sheriff Association Board of Directors, which he is a member of.

“There have been two or three different bills like this one that have been proposed in legislation this year,” said Gammons. “But the only thing the Sheriff Association will be supporting is 'no more than two boxes of pseudoephedrine per year'. And we feel like people who have sinus problems will need it for that reason; we feel that two boxes should be sufficient.

“But we do support that after that, the pharmacist can write a prescription if he feels that you need it—so you won't have to go to the doctor every time.”

Gammons says the problem he sees in the Governor's version of this bill is that it will still leave the way open for 'smurfers'—people who buy this product with their own drivers licenses to resell it at a profit to meth manufacturers.

“We don't think people in general need two boxes of Sudafed every month,” said Gammons. “I'm not trying to keep people from taking it that needs it. But we know that the pharmacist knows who needs it and who doesn't.

“I appreciate the governor taking a stand, but I feel like it should be a stronger stand. We are grateful… last year we had no kind of legislative meth stand in the state, but this year we do. About fifteen cities voted and passed resolutions last year that they couldn't sell Sudafed in their city at all. Then the attorney General said they couldn't do that. But I think that's what's got the attention of legislators.”

Gammons urged Macon residents to write to their Senator or Representative about supporting this kind of legislation.

“Let them know it's time to do something about meth, and time to make stiffer Sudafed laws. Tennessee is number two in the US right now in manufacturing methamphetamine. We need to show that that's not what Macon County or Tennessee is about.”

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) also released a statement.
“We commend Governor Haslam and other Tennessee leaders for their desire to address the state’s methamphetamine problem," said Scott Melville, president and chief executive officer of CHPA, "but the legislation proposed today would burden law-abiding Tennesseans — particularly those who suffer from frequent allergy symptoms —with severe restrictions on the amount of certain cold and allergy medicines they can obtain before consulting a doctor.”