BY KEN LITTLE
Proposed legislation announced Thursday by Gov. Bill Haslam aimed at reducing methamphetamine production in Tennessee has the support of Greene County Sheriff Steve Burns, the sheriff said in an interview with The Greeneville Sun.
The proposed law is called the Tennessee Anti-Meth Production (TAMP) Act.
It is designed to target the problem of "smurfing" by limiting an individual's access to pseudoephedrine or ephedrine products -- while not overburdening law-abiding customers who need temporary cold and sinus relief.
So-called "smurfers" buy such over-the-counter cold and sinus relief products containing pseudoephedrine or ephedrine from a variety of stores in small quantities until they have enough to manufacture meth, which is illegal.
The primary sponsor of the Tennessee Anti-Meth Production (TAMP) Act in the state House of Representatives is Rep. David Hawk, R-5th, of Greeneville.
"Law enforcement has been working to curb illegal meth production in Tennessee for over a decade," Hawk said in a news release.
"This new legislation will provide valuable assistance in the fight to stop meth production across the state."
WHAT PROPOSAL WOULD DO
The proposed law would set limits on how much pseudoephedrine or ephedrine [in legal cold or sinus relief products] may be purchased by an individual within a period of 30 days.
The proposed limits would be the commonly-purchased amounts of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine by a single individual over a period of a month.
Specifically, individuals would be authorized to buy up to 2.4 grams of products containing pseudoephedrine or ephedrine in a 30-day period by presenting valid identification to a pharmacist.
This amount equals the maximum recommended daily dose of 240 milligrams for 10 days.
Haslam said the proposed legislation aligns commonly purchased amounts of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine with 30-day limits.
Burns, a former Tennessee Sheriff's Association president who is vice-chairman of the organization's Legislative Committee, said that the law proposed by Haslam is one of two similar bills that will be considered by the General Assembly.
"There has got to be some controls on the pseudoephedrine, and it has to be put in place in a way that limits the 'smurfing,'" Burns said.
Haslam said his proposal would not affect "most people who use these products normally."
"The good thing in this legislation that's being introduced," Burns said, "is, I believe we will be able to get something that's better than what we have."
"We're all trying to work together with the governor's office so we can pass [a law] that's fair."
Meth continues to ruin lives in Greene County, Burns said, noting that there have already been three meth labs discovered in the county this year.
"In Greene County, we still have meth issues. A lot of it's being imported now, and they have super labs [in other countries]," Burns said.
"If we can control the labs in Greene County, then we can reduce the cost of cleanup and limit the source of meth that's destroying all these lives, and then go to the [super labs]."
The Sheriff's Association will carefully monitor other proposed legislation that involves law enforcement, according to Burns.
"There are several areas that are important to [the association]," he said. "Lots of times there are bills introduced that put requirements on law enforcement without any funding.
"We monitor all the legislation, and we single out the ones we feel are beneficial to law enforcement and that would help us do a better job to protect our citizens."
But the main legislative focus remains the meth lab issue, Burns said.
"We just can't keep spending $2 million a year to clean up labs and take children out of homes," he emphasized.
Lab seizures and meth use in Tennessee resulted in 266 children being removed from homes and taken into custody by the state Department of Children's Services due to meth-related incidents in 2013, at an estimated cost of more than $7 million, according to Haslam's office.