Paul Shahen
Eyewitness News Reporter

ATHENS, MCMINN COUNTY (WRCB) - This year, McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy challenged pharmacies across the state of Tennessee to stop selling medications containing pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient to making meth, without a prescription.

This week Sheriff Guy says the mission is paying off. Two states, Oregon and Mississippi, require a prescription for pseudoephedrine. In Mississippi, the number of meth labs seized is now down 67 percent in the eight months since the new law was passed.

Tennessee leads the nation when it comes to meth labs, just ahead of Missouri.

Sheriff Guy is almost guaranteeing that if the state passes his proposal Tennessee's number of meth labs would also drop.

His county is on board, and he says they're already seeing results, now it's a matter of the state jumping on board.

"I think it will make a huge difference, I think you'll see Tennessee with a 75-90 percent reduction in meth labs, in one year just as these other states have seen," says Sheriff Guy.

Guy says it's a no brainer. He says the numbers from Oregon and Mississippi don't lie.

Oregon made pseudoephedrine a schedule five drug only available with prescription in 2006. It's meth labs are down almost 90 percent. The majority of meth they find is trafficked in from out of state or country.

When that happens, the DEA gets involved. Guy says that's much easier to deal with, "as a sheriff I would much rather the drug manufacturer be in the other state, or other country, if we get the finished product here, we'll deal with that as we should."

Guy says the reality is drugs will always exist but manufacturing meth in state doesn't have to.

Which could mean more money for the local government, because unlike last year, the local government now foots the bill for meth lab clean ups.

Last year alone would have cost McMinn county half a million dollars.

"If we look forward to another year with the current budget situation, there's no way we can afford that," said Guy.

if Guy's proposal passes legislation pharmacists would be allowed to write prescriptions, after checking your symptoms. Which would eliminate smurfing (when meth manufacturers pay people to buy the legal limit.)

He spoke in front of law makers last week, and left with a sense that they're starting to understand how serious this problem is getting.

"It scares me to think, in a few years, if we don't put the brakes on it now. As bad as it's getting, how bad it could be in two to three years," says Guy.

Sheriff Guy said it will be a couple of weeks before we hear something from the state. We'll bring you updates along the way as one county takes the lead in slashing the number of meth labs in the state.

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