The Tennessee Senate Thursday passed SB 1265, which calls for the implementation of a statewide, real-time electronic tracking system, called NPLEx (National Precursor Log Exchange), to monitor and block illegal purchases of over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine (PSE), an ingredient used in methamphetamine production. The bill also calls for felony charges for manufacturing meth in front of children and increases penalties for meth-related offenses. The legislation is a compromise brokered by Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons and members of the legislature.
"I commend Safety Commissioner Gibbons and the Tennessee Senate for supporting a compromise that will prevent methamphetamine production in Tennessee while maintaining consumer access to important cold and allergy medications," said state Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, the bill's sponsor. "E-tracking is the only solution that will stop illegal sales of pseudoephedrine products by providing a real-time, preventive system in every Tennessee pharmacy."
There is currently no mechanism in place in Tennessee to block illegal PSE sales in real time, as many pharmacies rely on handwritten paper logbooks to track purchases. As a result, criminals have learned to circumvent the current system. SB 1265 and its companion bill in the House (HB 1051) will provide a secure, interconnected electronic logbook that advises pharmacists when to refuse a sale based on an individual's purchase record elsewhere in the state and beyond its borders. In addition, the state's comptroller will conduct a thorough study of Tennessee's meth production, which will be released by January 1, 2013.
"Most importantly, electronic tracking preserves access to the trusted medicines that many Tennesseans rely on and trust for cold and allergy relief," continued Sen. Beavers.
E-tracking, which has been adopted by 13 states nationwide, will give local law enforcement officials a powerful investigative tool to track meth production across state lines. E-tracking allows law enforcement to find previously undiscovered meth labs and helps them identify meth cooks without costing taxpayers one penny.
The provision stiffening penalties against making meth in the presence of a child would take place on July 1, 2011. The bill would make the crime aggravated child endangerment which is punishable as a Class A felony if the child is eight years old or younger and a Class B felony if the child is over the age of eight.
Senator Beavers said the bill would make illegal "smurfing" or pharmacy shopping in order to obtain enough drugs to make meth and upon conviction in court, defendants would be required to pay fines that could go toward clean up of meth labs locally.
For a first conviction for such an offense, the offender would be subject to a $1,000 fine, and for a second or subsequent conviction the offender would be subject to a $2,000 fine. All proceeds from such fines would be used by the jurisdiction making the arrest for methamphetamine clean-up activities in that jurisdiction. Any person convicted of such offense would also be placed on the methamphetamine registry and would be prohibited from purchasing a nonexempt product for the seven years such person is required to be on the registry.
SB 1265/HB 1051 is supported by the Tennessee Pharmacists Association, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, and the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry. The NPLEx system would be fully integrated into Tennessee pharmacy systems by January 1, 2012.