The new law limits the sale of pseudoephedrine, a cold and allergy nasal decongestant used in the production of methamphetamine, to only 28.8 grams per year without a prescription. That's equivalent to 240 12-hour Sudafed tablets.
Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich said illegal production and distribution of meth is a huge problem statewide. Weirich said every day there's a new meth case on the docket in local courtrooms, and she thinks the new anti-meth law is a step in the right direction.
"I hope it cuts down on the number of people who are addicted and using methamphetamine [as well as] the number of children who are exposed on a daily basis to this poison," Weirich said. "The children who live in those homes and are exposed to that substance being made by one or both parents, the physical side effects of that, not to mention the long-term emotional and psychological impact is huge."
According to Governor Bill Haslam, Tennessee authorities seized around 1,700 meth labs and removed nearly 270 children from meth-related situations in 2013. The number of lab seizures last year was down from 1,811 in 2012.
Meth is a white, odorless stimulant that can be snorted, smoked, taken orally, or injected with a needle. Extremely addictive, the drug provides a sense of euphoria, energy, and normally decreases a person's appetite. It can potentially cause heart and brain damage, insomnia, nausea, and increased aggressiveness.
The key ingredient in meth production, pseudoephedrine, isn't purchased by the majority of Tennesseans. According to the National Precursor Log Exchange, more than 730,000 driver licenses were used to purchase 3.4 million grams of pseudoephedrine in Tennessee in 2013.
In Shelby County, meth production appears to be on the decline. From January to May 2013, authorities seized 19 meth labs in Shelby County, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI). Through the same time period in 2014, the number was nine. Ten percent of the Shelby County Drug Court's 278 clients attend the court program for meth.
Major pharmacies in the state likely won't be burdened by the anti-meth law, but smaller establishments could be negatively impacted. Weirich said changing a law that targets a fragment of the population, but "forces everyone to follow a certain behavior" is "a complex issue."
"There are many more people not addicted to meth in the state of Tennessee than there are addicted to it," Weirich said. "It's sometimes a shame when you have to change the laws for everybody just to get the attention of a small segment. We're hopeful that maybe these limitations will help with the long-term effects."
TBI Director Mark Gwyn said that although the law will help combat the state's meth issue, more needs to be done: "It's tough to estimate to what degree, but we firmly believe the new law will have a positive impact on Tennessee's meth epidemic. Though the purchase limits for pseudoephedrine will be among the lowest in the nation, we certainly realize there remains a lot of work to do on this important issue."