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Methamphetamine Production In Tennessee

Methamphetamine Production In Tennessee

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Published by David Garrett Jr.

As directed by PC 292, this report presents information on the effectiveness of public policies in Tennessee and other states intended to control access to the key pharmacy precursors. The relatively short history of precursor control policies, as well as limitations of available crime and drug use data, limits the strength of conclusions that can be drawn about the impact of particular precursor control laws on the production of methamphetamine in small labs.

As directed by PC 292, this report presents information on the effectiveness of public policies in Tennessee and other states intended to control access to the key pharmacy precursors. The relatively short history of precursor control policies, as well as limitations of available crime and drug use data, limits the strength of conclusions that can be drawn about the impact of particular precursor control laws on the production of methamphetamine in small labs.

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Published by: David Garrett Jr. on Jan 11, 2013
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M
ETHAMPHETAMINE
P
RODUCTIONIN
T
ENNESSEE
 January 2013
Offices of Research and Education Accountability 
OREA 
 T
ENNESSEE
C
OMPTROLLER 
 
OF
 
 THE
T
REASURY 
, J
USTIN
P. W
ILSON
Photo Credit: Andre Teague/Bristol Herald Courier 
Susan Mattson
Principal Legislative Research Analyst615-401-7884 /susan.mattson@cot.tn.gov 
Shiri Anderson
 Associate Legislative Research Analyst
O
FFICES
 
OF
R
ESEARCH
 
 AND
E
DUCATION
A
CCOUNTABILITY
Phillip Doss, Director Russell Moore, Assistant Director Suite 1700, James K. Polk Building
505 Deaderick StreetNashville, Tennessee 37243
(615) 401-7866www.tn.gov/comptroller/orea
 
 
M
ETHAMPHETAMINE
P
RODUCTION
 
IN
T
ENNESSEE
E
XECUTIVE
S
UMMARY
The illicit production of methamphetamine is aserious public health, safety, and fiscal issue inTennessee. Methamphetamine is a highly addictivedrug that can be easily produced by individuals withcertain over-the-counter cold and allergymedications (pharmacy precursors) and everydayhousehold products and chemicals. The dangersand associated costs of methamphetamine gobeyond the effects on the health and productivity of the drug abuser. The explosiveness and toxicity of the labs and dumpsites of waste materials posesignificant dangers and costs to families of thosemaking methamphetamine, the community, lawenforcement personnel, and workers who clean upthe contaminated properties.The number, and inherent danger, of methamphetamine labs has increased in Tennesseein the last few years, due in part to the developmentof “one-pot” labs. This methamphetamine productionmethod requires only a plastic bottle and a fewother items, along with a small amount of thepharmacy precursors.State and federal policymakers have sought tobalance cold and allergy sufferers’ access to a safeand effective nasal decongestant with the need tocurtail the diversion of these medications to theproduction of methamphetamine.Federal andTennessee laws passed in 2005 to limit access tothe pharmacy precursors include purchase limits for individuals of 3.6 grams per 24 hours and ninegrams per 30 days. Pharmacy precursors inTennessee are sold from behind the pharmacycounter. Individuals must present government-issuedidentification to purchase and pharmacies mustkeep a log of all purchases. In 2011, Tennesseepassed Public Chapter 292 (PC 292) to implement areal-time, electronic tracking system – the NationalPrecursor Log Exchange (NPLEx) – to further limitaccess to the pharmacy precursors used toproduce methamphetamine. After much debate,NPLEx was chosen over a more restrictiverequirement that an individual obtain a doctor’sprescription for the pharmacy precursors. As directed by PC 292, this report presentsinformation on the effectiveness of public policies inTennessee and other states intended to controlaccess to the key pharmacy precursors. Therelatively short history of precursor control policies,as well as limitations of available crime and druguse data, limits the strength of conclusions that canbe drawn about the impact of particular precursor control laws on the production of methamphetaminein small labs. The National Clandestine LaboratorySeizure System (NCLSS), maintained by the DrugEnforcement Administration’s El Paso IntelligenceCenter (EPIC), is the only national database of methamphetamine lab incidents; the system hasnot been considered a complete record of allincidents because of incomplete reporting or processing differences by EPIC.The information included in this report is for policymakers’ consideration in addressing theproblems associated with methamphetamineproduction.
Impact of Precursor Sales Limitations
Methamphetamine production, as measured bythe number of methamphetamine labincidents, decreased following federal andstate methamphetamine pharmacy precursorsales limitation policies between 2004 and2006; in 2007 the number of incidents began toincrease in several states, includingTennessee.
In 2010, Tennessee reported one of thehighest number of methamphetamine lab incidentsnationally
.
Law enforcement, both in Tennessee andnationally, attribute the increase and high numbersi
 
of methamphetamine labs from 2008 through 2010to methamphetamine producers’ ability to workaround pharmacy precursor sales limitation policies,especially for the nasal decongestantpseudoephedrine. To exceed individualpseudoephedrine purchase limitations,methamphetamine producers pay others –commonly referred to as “smurfs” – to purchasepseudoephedrine.
 
To address the problem of “smurfing,” some states, including Tennessee,implemented electronic tracking systems to better track purchases and to enforce the precursor limitations.
Impact of Electronic Tracking ofPharmacy Precursor Sales
Methamphetamine lab incident trends in thefour states operating statewide electronictracking for pharmacy precursors for multipleyears – Arkansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, andTennessee – do not differ from other highmethamphetamine production states.
Inaddition, a small percentage of over-the-limit saleswere blocked in the four states that used NPLEx in2010 (Kentucky, Illinois, Louisiana, and Iowa);methamphetamine lab incidents in 2010 did notdecrease in those states. Possible reasons for theincrease in the number of methamphetamine labs instates with electronic tracking systems include:
Electronic tracking can limit the amount of precursors individuals can purchase, butmay be ineffective if offenders use falseidentification and/or recruit larger groups of individuals to purchase smaller amounts of the precursors.
Tracking systems may be more effective atassisting law enforcement in the discoveryof methamphetamine labs, thus increasingthe number of labs discovered, than atpreventing methamphetamine labs.
The increase in the number of methamphetamine lab incidents may berelated to a shift to low-yield productionmethods, often referred to as the “one-pot”or “shake-and-bake” method. Using thissimplified method, methamphetamineproducers can quickly produce smallbatches of methamphetamine morefrequently and in multiple locations. Thismethod requires a smaller amount of thepharmacy precursors, thus increasing thenumber of potential producers. This changein production method may affect thecomparability of methamphetamine labincidents statistics over time. A preliminary assessment by OREA of NPLEx in itsfirst six to eight months of statewide, mandatoryoperation in Tennessee during 2012 found:
Methamphetamine lab incidents since theimplementation of NPLEx in January 2012have not decreased substantially andremain at high levels.
 About three percent of pharmacy precursor sales were blocked by NPLEx as over-the-limit from January through October 2012.
Same store precursor sales declined anestimated two percent in the first sixmonths of 2012 compared to the sameperiod in 2011. The decline is approximatelyequivalent to the sales reported blocked byNPLEx.
The Tennessee MethamphetamineIntelligence System (TMIS) has flagged as“suspicious” about 33 percent of totalgrams of pharmacy precursors purchasedand 12 percent of driver licenses used for purchases from January through September 2012. This is a decrease from 47 percent ograms purchased and 18 percent of driver licenses used in that period in 2011.Tennessee’s monthly pharmacy precursor iiE
XECUTIVE
S
UMMARY

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