CARTER COUNTY, Tenn. - A local sheriff says he is proud to lead the state in the number of meth lab busts in 2012. He says it's proof his department is taking a serious problem head-on and not ignoring it.
We sat down with Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes to find out why is county is number one for meth according to a new study.
A recent Tennessee comptroller report says northeast Tennessee is leading the state in meth lab busts and Carter County is ahead of the pack.
"It's not something we are necessarily proud of, but I know we are taking an aggressive stance seeking the folks manufacturing [meth]," Mathes said Monday.
The report shows the county seized 50 labs last year. Sheriff Mathes says methamphetamine labs are the number one drug problem in his county, and that's why he has dedicated more officers to finding meth labs. "It seems to have become the drug of choice," he said.
While the sheriff tells us his officers are aggressively fighting the drug problem, he says they need help from lawmakers. He wants to make it harder for the meth makers to access pseudoephedrine.
Sheriff Mathes supports a proposal to make the drug available only by prescription. "I think it's the next step, hopefully it will help. I think the next step is to make it a scheduled drug and outlaw it," he said.
The comptroller report says the number of labs has only dropped slightly since the launch of a new computer database tracking sales last year. It does cite more significant drops in meth labs from three states where a prescription is required to buy pseudoephedrine.
The idea is backed by the Tennessee Sheriff's Association and is being pushed in the Tennessee legislature.
The report also suggests several other possibilities for lowering the number of meth labs.
Meth labs are also now costing the state more to clean up since federal funding ended in 2011.