Methamphetamines (AP File photo)
An East Tennessee Sheriff is asking stores across the state to stop selling pseudoephedrine products for the next 100 days.
"We are asking all retail outlets in McMinn County and across Southeast Tennessee and the state to stop the sale of any product that contains the drug pseudoephedrine," McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy said.
Wednesday, Guy released a Community Memorandum with his request to pharmacies in McMinn County. He took questions from the media at an afternoon press conference with several other law enforcement organizations standing with him.
"Pseudoephedrine is the main component precursor to manufacturing methamphetamine," said Sheriff Guy. "Few can argue that if there is no pseudoephedrine, there is no meth."
McMinn County has busted 161 meth labs in 2010, the most in the state of Tennessee.
Jeff Wolfenden owns a pair of pharmacies, one in Athens and another Cleveland and says while the public announcement caught him off guard, he doesn't disagree with the Sheriff's end goal.
"I think all of us in the healthcare profession are willing to do whatever we need to do as long as it's legal and we can help," Wolfenden, the owner of Madison Avenue Pharmacy in Athens said.
While Tennessee currently has a pseudoephedrine registry that tracks buyers of the drug, Sheriff Guy argues many are finding ways around it.
"They get young people go buy their legal limit and then they get all these pills together and make their meth," Guy said.
Wolfenden said the registry has cut the amount of pseudoephedrine he sells in his pharmacies by about 75%. But, he still turns some customers away if he doesn't recognize them, they don't have a prescription, or they give an indication they won't be using the drug for its intended use.
"A lot of times if someone calls you and you say 'yeah, I have that product,' before you know it, you've got six different people that you've never seen before in your store looking for that product," Wolfenden said.
While Sheriff Guy's request isn't something that can be upheld with the force of the law, he's confident Tennessee is moving toward an attitude where pseudoephedrine will become a drug you need a prescription to get.
There are currently bills in both Tennessee and Kentucky's General Assembly that would make the drug prescription-only.
"Only by making pseudoephedrine products a schedule drug can we truly and significantly reduce meth production in our community and in our state," he added.