STANDING UNITED – Assistant District Attorney and director of the 27th Judicial District’s Drug task Force Jim cannon (from left), Martin Police Chief David Moore, Obion County Sheriff Jerry Vastbinder and Union City Police Chief Joe Garner join toget
STANDING UNITED – Assistant District Attorney and director of the 27th Judicial District’s Drug task Force Jim cannon (from left), Martin Police Chief David Moore, Obion County Sheriff Jerry Vastbinder and Union City Police Chief Joe Garner join together to send a message to legislators to help their fight against meth manufacture and use during a press conference held Thursday.
The State of Tennessee earned top rankings in the nation last week. Unfortunately, the No. 1 honors do not come with a celebration.
In an Associated Press report released last week, Tennessee jumped to the No. 1 spot in the nation for meth lab busts, out ranking Missouri.
Combine that with the crippling news that federal funding for meth lab clean ups has run dry and local law enforcement are attempting to send a strong message to state legislators.
Members of the 27th Judicial District gathered for a press conference in the Union City City Hall early Thursday morning as step one in their efforts to get the word out about the growing meth problem facing the region and the state.
According to Obion County Sheriff Jerry Vastbinder, of the $10 million in federal funding allocated for meth lab clean ups in the Southeastern United States last year, Tennessee used $4.6 million.
Local agencies will inevitably face forking the dough themselves for meth lab clean ups. On average, a proper clean up will cost anywhere from $2,500 to $30,000.
Vastbinder shared that the hope is the federal funding will be restored in the spring to those states who have regional dump sites. Tennessee is not one of those states.
“The biggest problem is funding to pay for those dumpsters at the dump sites,” Vastbinder added.
With both pieces of bad news looming over law enforcement agencies and the epidemic of meth use on the rise, the key to successfully fighting the battle against the homemade speed is to make it harder for manufacturers to get their hands on the common denominator – meth’s main ingredient.
Vastbinder explained that in 2006, legislation was put into place to manually track the sale of pseudoephedrine across the state. With the system in place, people are probably all too familiar with having to hand over a driver’s license when purchasing a product at the pharmacy that contains pseudoephedrine.
The system still takes 6 to 10 days to track a sale. By that time, people known as “smurfers” are able to drive to numerous pharmacies collecting boxes of medicine containing pseudoephedrine.
In 2010, Vastbinder said more than three million tabs of pseudoephedrine products were sold and half of those sales were used to manufacture meth.
“This is enough to give every resident in the state of Tennessee one gram of meth each day for 10 days,” Vastbinder reported.
Vastbinder said it was time to crack down on the problem and the 27th Judicial District law enforcement agencies in Weakley and Obion counties are signing on to a proposed piece of legislation this year that would make pseudoephedrine-containing products a controlled substance.
This would mean that people would need a prescription to obtain the spcific products containing pseudoephedrine.
“Oregon has been doing this for two years. Yes, Medicaid did increase by only $8,000 in the state. But they only reported 12 meth labs last year,” Vastbinder noted.
He added that since its initiation in Mississippi, there has been a 76 percent decrease in meth labs. With such limited laws and no real-time tracking of pseudoephedrine sales, Tennessee has seen an increase in “smurfing” from neighboring states with stiffer access to the drug’s main ingredient.
While opponents of the prescription legislation cite a potential increase in Medicaid costs to the state, it already costs Tennessee $1.6 billion a year to pay for meth addiction and the circumstances surrounding the drug.