Harriman takes step to slow meth

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By Cindy Simpson

Users of certain cold and allergy products products may soon need prescriptions to purchase them in the city of Harriman.
The city approved first reading of an ordinance that would restrict the sales of medicines with ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, joining other cities in following suit to remedy what local officials call a failure of state and federal governments to act.
“They tried to do this in Washington and Nashville and the other state legislatures, and they won’t touch it because of the lobbyists that come forward,” Mayor Chris Mason said.
Mason believes it will make a dent in the methamphetamine manufacture by hindering the purchase of its main precursor.
The city was waiting on an opinion from the state attorney general’s office, but moved forward with first reading of their own ordinance last week.
A Municipal Technical Advisory Service attorney has opined that the cities cannot enforce pseudoephedrine prescriptions, but Harriman city officials believe they can.
Even so, Treasurer Charles Kerley didn’t think it was sound policy.
As an allergy sufferer himself, he no longer takes the pseudoephedrine products, but only because his doctor said it can raise blood pressure.
“I think contrary to the language you are interfering with the legitimate purchase of the product, because if I go to my doctor, he charges $70 for an office visit, and I think that is an unreasonable imposition for people that use it for valid (reasons),” Kerley said.
City attorney Harold Balcom said there is a provision for pharmacists to write prescriptions specifically for this type of product.
Kerley still had his concerns.
“I just think it is really an uneducated and unlearned approach to policy. Why would you be doing this as a city when the state and federal government finds there is no problem here? You aren’t going to make a dent in the illegal use of it,” Kerley said.
Mason believes if every other community comes on board it will be effective.
“It is a fact, it will push the meth makers to the other counties outside of us. It has happened in — almost every city in Missouri has done it. So when they did it, the west end of Tennessee all the meth labs went up,” responded Mason. 
Mason, like many others, blames the drug industry for not making changes because they benefit from the profits made by sale of the product for illegal use.
Councilman Chris Ahler and Councilman Lonnie Wright made the motion and second on the ordinance.
Ahler pointed to people using their vehicles as a meth production site right after purchasing the drug in the pharmacy, pointing to one case where a car exploded outside a pharmacy and killing one.
“I don’t want to go to a Walgreens and worry about somebody making meth in their car right next to me and it explode. And the fact there is no p0litical will at the state level because of lobbyists is sickening,” Ahler said.
Balcom spoke of incidents in Roane County, including meth production  underway just outside the sheriff’s office.
“They are brazen. It doesn’t matter where they go,” Balcom said.
Mee asked that businesses be approached with communication regarding the changes, including having local law enforcement come in to talk to the businesses. The city would delay actual enforcement until everyone was clear on the policy.
“There is nothing that prohibits anything,” Balcom said.
A copy of the ordinance can be found at Harriman City Hall.