Nashville takes action against meth manufacturers

By Megan R. Harrell
Star Staff

The manufacturing distribution of methamphetamine has become rampant in parts of Tennessee. Last week the House Criminal Practice Subcommittee approved a series of bills that could give local law enforcement additional weight when dealing with manufacturers of methamphetamine.
   The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation brought the series of drug related bills to state legislators which allow for the prosecution of those who are found with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine. Current laws make it difficult to prosecute a meth manufacturer until the drug is completely produced.
   One of the bills would make possessing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine a class D felony, while a sister bill prescribes the same penalty for using two or more objects that constitute drug paraphernalia that would be used to manufacture the substance. A class E felony offense for the possession of substances with intent to use them to manufacture methamphetamine or to disperse the items to other people who have the intent of making the drug is another measure included in the legislation.
   Over half of the meth labs in the Southeast are located in Tennessee and local law enforcement officials need all the state help they can get to help combat the problem. "I am 150 percent for them and am really pleased with these bills and glad that they were approved," Carter County Sheriff John Henson said. "Any time we can work to stamp out drug abuse I am all for it."
   Rep. Stancil Ford (R-Morristown) sponsored a separate bill that was approved by the House Criminal Practice Subcommittee and protects underaged children. The bill cracks down on children's exposure to the substance and makes it easier for the Department of Children's Services to gain custody of a child who has been placed in danger through exposure to methamphetamine. The child could not be returned to the home unless the court finds clear and convincing evidence that the home environment has become safe. Failure to protect a child six years old and younger from exposure to a meth lab is a class A misdemeanor under the new legislation.
   Local state lawmakers believe that the approval of the legislation is an important step in the right direction. "I certainly think that we should pass the legislation and would hope that it works," said State Rep. Ralph Cole (R-Elizabethton).
   Cole stated that he learned last week from a law enforcement official that the majority of meth labs in the state of Tennessee are located on the Cumberland Plateau just west of Chattanooga. "This law is needed and I commend the Criminal Practice Subcommittee," Rep. Cole said.
   Meth labs are easily moved and set up which makes it difficult for law enforcement officials to locate and prosecute manufacturers, but the recent approval of the bills in Nashville have given local officials more to work with in their fight against drugs. "I believe in Carter County that we are winning but it does take a lot of time," Sheriff Henson said. "We indicted about 30 people on drug abuse charges at the last grand jury and we are fighting a war, but I believe we are winning. Getting a law like this gives us more leverage and hopefully will send a message that Tennessee is not going to tolerate drugs."