Cities and counties that have passed their own prescription-only pseudoephedrine laws did so illegally, according to a new legal opinion from Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper.

Cooper was asked whether municipalities can pass their own local laws requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine, the key ingredient for making meth, to combat the problem. Cooper's opinion, dated Dec. 6, says that doing so violates state laws that give the Tennessee Legislature sole power to regulate such drugs. The request for Cooper's opinion came from State Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma.

"The enactment of a local ordinance that prohibits the sale, delivery or distribution of over-the-counter products containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine without a valid prescription from a health care professional licensed in Tennessee would be contrary to Tenn. Code..." the opinion reads.

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which has lobbied hard here and in other states against prescription-only laws, applauded the opinion.

"We have always maintained that a prescription mandate for pseudoephedrine is a state issue," read a release from the group, which represents pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors. "Local city- and countywide mandates are not effective solutions to address the illegal purchase of pseudoephedrine-containing medicines, and we look forward to working with the Tennessee legislature to find effective solutions to the illegal sale of PSE."

At least 19 cities across the state have passed such laws, hoping to curb the use of pseudoephedrine in making meth. States like Missouri, unable to pass statewide laws, have adopted similar tactics to combat meth.

The meaning of Cooper's decision is unclear. Winchester Police Chief Dennis Young said one such law passed in his city will still be enforced -- for now.

"It is still effective. It is a law, it has been passed locally," he said. "We're having our attorneys review it, but as of now ... ours is staying in place."

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