Mississippi meth law could create more problems elsewhere

By Justin Hanson - bio | email

JACKSON, MS (WMC-TV) - Gov. Haley Barbour has signed into law legislation that will require consumers to get a doctor's prescription to buy cold medicine containing pseudoephedrine, a decongestant and key ingredient in the illegal drug methamphetamine.

But law enforcement agents here in West Tennessee aren't so excited about the law.

Popular over the counter drugs like Sudafed and Claritin contain pseudo-ephedrine, one of the key ingredients in meth.

Law enforcement agents say selling the drugs as prescription only in Mississippi could make the drug problem elsewhere worse.

"They're gonna jump across the state line to do the same thing. No doubt in my mind about it.  We're gonna have to work closer with the Mississippi authorities," said Tipton County Sheriff Pancho Chumley.

Chumley says his agency is taking a stand against meth and those who make it, because he believes meth addicts are going to support their habit, no matter what.

"They go out and get it illegally. They make meth illegally, and that's causing honest good hard working people to go through hoops to get what they need to take care of a cold," he said.

In Tipton County alone, there were 33 meth lab busts in 2009, and so far this year, there have already been nine.

Chumley says meth makers need to spend more time in jail for their crimes.  Right now, a first time offender gets a maximum of 1.8 years in jail.  Meanwhile, a standard offender gets two to four years.

A criminal with two to four convictions on their record gets four to eight years while a person with five plus priors gets eight to twelve years.

"Until we start punishing people for the crimes they commit, we're not gonna stop it. We hadn't seen anything yet," Chumley said.

To see a copy of the actual bill passed by the MS State House, click here.

For Governor Barbour's response to the bill, click here.

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