It doesn’t take long to realize drugs are a problem in our community.
Many people are addicted to various substances, such as methamphetamines. Some are involved in manufacturing and selling meth. The “War on Drugs” has had many casualties, including those dying from addiction and those who have been killed fighting drug traffic.
But sometimes a subtler casualty is a loss of personal liberties when lawmakers overreach to police the trade. While the problem plagues our county, it doesn’t warrant a knee-jerk reaction.
In Tennessee, police fight two phases of meth manufacture: promotion and initiation.
People are charged with initiation of a process intended to result in the manufacture of methamphetamine when they intentionally begin the chemical process to modify commercial products to become meth. It is a class B felony.
Promotion to manufacture methamphetamine involves selling, purchasing or possessing products used in the process of manufacturing meth. It is a class D felony, which is less serious than a class B felony.
Unlike possession of a schedule II substance, those convicted of promotion to manufacture methamphetamine don’t have to actually possess the meth. Nor are they actively manufacturing meth, as in the case of those charged with initiation of a process intended to result in the manufacture of methamphetamine.
“A person promotes methamphetamine who: sells, purchases, acquires, or delivers any chemical, drug, ingredient, or apparatus that can be used to produce methamphetamine, knowing that it will be used to produce methamphetamine, or with reckless disregard of its intended use,” Tennessee Code Annotated said.
This allows for the arrest of people who sell, purchase or possess legal products such as Coleman fuel, coffee filters, plastic tubing and certain allergy medicines.
In January, the Caryville Police Department arrested a male and female for evading arrest, failure to stop, halt and frisk and promotion to manufacture methamphetamine, according to an arrest report prepared by Caryville Assistant Police Chief Stephanie Smith. When Smith approached the suspects at the Shell Station, the male suspect discarded a backpack before he and the female suspect fled, Smith said. When the bag was recovered, it contained drain opener, plastic tubing, and funnels Smith said in the report. After Smith searched the male suspect, she allegedly found coffee filters.
These two suspects were charged with a felony, but didn’t actually possess any illegal drugs.
The motivation behind this law is to stop the manufacturing process before it begins.
However, the same logic could be applied in the home, if parents decided to ground their children before they misbehaved in order to keep them from having the chance. The law comes at the price of personal liberties.
While methamphetamine is a synthetic drug that is manufactured from legal products, it is dangerous to empower police officers to make judgment calls about who is using them to manufacture meth. Often enough, citizens will need allergy medicine for allergies, coffee filters when they make coffee or lithium batteries for electronics. But this law creates the possibility that someone can be arrested for purchasing or possessing these products. It gives law enforcement the power to make judgment calls based on the way the items are purchased, the quantity of each item purchased and other factors.
A law shouldn’t cast suspicion on legal transactions.
Citizens shouldn’t have to be careful about their shopping habits to avoid being tagged as drug manufacturers. Policing the manufacture of meth isn’t worth that cost.
“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety,” Benjamin Franklin said.