Manchester leaders appeared to switch gears at a special-called meeting of the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen Tuesday night regarding the much-debated pseudoephedrine ordinance that was passed once and then tabled.
By the end of Tuesday’s 1 ½ hour meeting Manchester Mayor Lonnie Norman called for resolutions asking for more involvement from all healthcare professionals and pharmacists to combat meth and for a separate resolution to send to the State Legislature stating Manchester’s position on pseudoephedrine-based medicines and methamphetamines.
The resolutions are scheduled to be voted on during Tuesday’s regularly-scheduled board meeting.
“It’s a step in trying,” said Norman as the meeting wrapped up.
More back-and-forth on whether or not an ordinance banning pseudoephedrine-based medicines inside the Manchester City Limits would be the best path forward for the city took over the meeting before a late recess was able to bring the meeting back to its scheduled agenda – which was to seek an alternative method to an ordinance banning over-the-counter sales of the medicine in the city limits. Pseudoephedrine-based medicines, such as Sudafed, also serve as a key ingredient in the production of methamphetamines.
An over-the-counter ban by a municipality has been called into question in legal circles, including opinions from the Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) Tennessee Municipal League (TML), the Tennessee Municipal Attorney’s Association (TMAA) and even Manchester’s own city attorney Gerald Ewell, saying such a move would be outside the board’s legal authority. Other area municipalities, including several in Franklin County and Grundy County, have already passed similar ordinances in hopes of curbing methamphetamine production.
Local pharmacist and businessman Ray Marcrom volunteered to help the city move forward with a resolution which, unlike an ordinance, would only need to pass one reading before the board and would not bring fines and legal ramifications along with it.
“I would volunteer Dawn [Hafer with Baker Brothers Drugs] and I, we would be glad to work with the [Coffee County Anti] Drug Coalition and try to implement any resolution you might make and whatever teeth you want to put into that to give us the authority to speak for the board on this issue to our fellow professionals because I think that’s going to be important that we get out and put the footwork to this and then create an environment of participation and make it difficult to not participate.”
Kevin Eidson with Lipscomb University and a member of the Tennessee Board of Pharmacy was on hand and first suggested the board pursue a resolution rather than an ordinance of questionable legality.
“One resolution to the healthcare community in this city saying we have a problem and we are going to address it as a community, shoulder-to-shoulder. [The resolution might say] we want to voluntarily look at these issues and be very conscious of it and ask pharmacies in the community to not dispense it,” said Eidson. “The other thing I think you might want to consider is sending a resolution to Nashville, to the General Assembly saying we want to see the state do something, we want it prescription only, we don’t want it in Tennessee. Whatever your wish would be. I recommend you do that.”
Reggie Dillard, who serves as executive director of the board of pharmacy, also chimed in.
“A resolution letting [the state] know how you feel about it, that you feel like prescription only would be a good idea,” said Dillard. “It has worked to some extent in Mississippi and Oregon. At the same token, I don’t want to argue statistics but they can be made to say a lot of things.”
Marcrom suggested adding signs to participating pharmacies and putting pressure to those that might not want to jump on board.
“I think a team of us with law enforcement working together could be very potent in really creating an atmosphere of participation,” Marcrom told the board.
Chad Partin with the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department added that funding could be available to provide signage for around town and in local businesses.
Norman asked Ewell to have resolutions ready for the board to view by Friday and asked the board to be ready for a vote by the board’s next meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“My question is, the resolution that we are proposing sounds a lot like the ordinance that we are proposing,” said alderman Ryan French, who sponsors the ordinance that passed its first reading but was tabled last Tuesday, Aug. 20. “It’s almost like saying we are not going to make murder illegal anymore we are just going to ask everybody to please don’t do it. All we are doing is taking the consequences out of the ordinance by passing a resolution that essentially says the same thing.”
Currently the state’s “I Hate Meth Act” calls for pseudoephedrine sales to be over the counter and to be tracked using the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx) system. Under the law, pharmacies can’t sell more than 3.6 grams of pseudoephedrine per day or more than 9 grams per 30-day period to one person, unless the person has a valid prescription. Law enforcement officials say that system is circumvented by “smurfers” who use multiple identifications at different locations to obtain more than the legal amount of the drug.
The meth problem
A study conducted and released by the Tennessee Comptroller’s office shows meth lab incidents in Tennessee rank first in the country. According to the study and the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC), there were 2,157 reported methamphetamine lab incidents in Tennessee in 2010. Second was Missouri with 1,998. Kentucky reported 1,361. Border states Mississippi Alabama and Georgia reported 937, 720 and 334, respectively.
Of the 2,157 reported in Tennessee in 2010, 86 were in Coffee County, 99 in Warren County and 70 in Franklin County. Those numbers from the Tennessee Methamphetamine Intelligence System (TMIS) do not include federal or misdemeanor convictions for methamphetamine related offenses, according to the comptroller’s report.
“That whole region of Lincoln, Franklin and Coffee County – that’s ground zero for Tennessee,” said Tommy Farmer, Director of Tennessee Meth and Pharmacy Taskforce with the TBI. “People don’t realize this unless you’ve been in the meth game.”
The past 12 years have been an ongoing effort to combat the problem without taking extraordinary methods, Farmer said.
“We have 12 years of trying everything we can possibly do and spent millions of dollars trying to rid this and combat this,” he said. “We have legislation where we have taken incremental steps to limit access and amounts. We have done everything we can do.
“The FDA let the genie out of the bottle and we would prefer on the national level that the FDA put the genie back in the bottle.”
The comptroller study goes on to highlight other problems other than the actual meth lab. According to the study, Tennessee spent over $4 million in federal funds to clean up methamphetamine lab sites at an average of $2,500 per site.
Also, in fiscal years 2010 and 2011, 722 children were placed in Department of Children’s Services custody for methamphetamine related issues at an estimated cost of $19.6 million. The cost range to clean a home of the toxins is between $5,000 and $25,000, according to the report.