Nightly News | May 13, 2011
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: There is news tonight about a problem destroying lives and getting worse in this country, and states across this country are trying to figure out how to get it under control. The problem is meth labs. And while some say it didn't go far enough, the state with the worst of the problem, Tennessee , has agreed on a compromise. They're willing to try, at least, and hope it helps. Our report from NBC 's Mark Potter .
Sheriff JOE GUY (McMinn County Sheriff's Office): And our officers discovered a meth lab .
MARK POTTER reporting: At a mobile home near a high school in Etowah , Tennessee , investigators say they have uncovered two methamphetamine labs.
Sheriff GUY: They can smoke it. They can eat it. They can inject it.
POTTER: Down the road they also clean up the toxic remnants of a third lab.
Unidentified Man: You've got to have the pseudoephedrine to make methamphetamine.
POTTER: Authorities find more meth labs in Tennessee than in any other state, more than 2,000 last year alone.
Mr. MARK GWYN (Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director): To say we're in a crisis, I think is an understatement. There are lives being damaged and lost every day because of this scourge of methamphetamine.
POTTER: Meth is a highly addictive stimulant, usually produced in illegal, homemade labs. A key ingredient is pseudoephedrine, found in common cold medicines. Detectives say some of the people here making meth have 30 to 40 people working for them, called smurfers. Their job is to go into local drug stores to buy cold medicine with pseudoephedrine, one box at a time. To control the smurfers, McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy believes a prescription should be required for pseudoephedrine products, already the law in Mississippi and Oregon .
Sheriff GUY: You take away pseudoephedrine, you take away meth. It's the one product that has got to be in the mix to make methamphetamine.
POTTER: But at his Etowah drugstore, pharmacist Jeff Anderson argues, a prescription law makes it hard for real patients to get fast relief.
Mr. JEFF ANDERSON (Anderson Drugs): You're punishing law-abiding citizens that have a legitimate need. We need to punish the criminals and leave the other guys alone.
POTTER: The Tennessee legislature agrees and has just approved a computer monitoring system to record and track the names of pseudoephedrine buyers...
Sheriff GUY: That's a shake and bake plan.
POTTER: ...saying if that doesn't save lives, it could then consider prescriptions. Mark Potter , NBC News,