More meth than marijuana submitted to crime lab

Becky Campbell • Jan 13, 2020 at 7:49 PM

Just two months ago, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation officials said marijuana was the top drug submitted to the state lab for testing, but after 2019 statistics were all counted, meth actually edged out pot, according to information released Monday.

TBI’s crime laboratories in Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville received a total of 9,795 submissions of marijuana in 2019, compared to 10,652 in 2018. Historically, the TBI analyzes approximately 10,000 submissions identified as marijuana every year, the agency said.

Comparatively, methamphetamine has continued to trend significantly upward in recent years, increasing from 3,748 submissions in 2015 to 12,072 in 2019. That has occurred, however, at the same time the state has seen a sharp decline in the number of meth labs over the past decade, indicating an influx in imported methamphetamine.

“Drug addiction continues to be a major issue in Tennessee, and I believe this sharp increase in methamphetamine has a connection to our state’s ongoing opioid epidemic,” TBI Director David Rausch said.

“The drug trade continues to evolve,” said Tommy Farmer, TBI special agent-in-charge of the Tennessee Dangerous Drugs Task Force. “Though we’ve seen an increase, recently, in stimulants in our state’s illicit drug supply, I’m encouraged we’ve made progress in addressing other illicit drugs, like opioids. This data, however, proves we have more work to do. We will continue to do what it takes to address this problem from the law enforcement side and stand prepared to help law enforcement agencies across the state in this collective fight.”

Rausch said drug uses often switch back and forth from depressants to stimulants, which ultimately can lead to stimulates like meth.

“Unfortunately, those who run drug operations, often based outside the United States, know there’s an increased demand here,” Rausch said. “Alongside our local, state, and federal partners, we’ll keep doing what we can to dismantle these operations, but we’d also urge anyone struggling with drug problems to get help before addiction costs you your life.”

Marie Williams, Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services commissioner, said it’s important to remember that as the “state’s addiction crisis continues to evolve, treatment for substance use disorder is effective, and people do recover. We want to encourage everyone, whether you’re living with an addiction or you love someone who’s struggling, there is hope for a new life in recovery.”

Both state agencies encourage those struggling with substance abuse issues to take advantage of free and confidential resources available through the Tennessee REDLINE. More information can be found online at www.tn.gov/behavioral-health/news/2019/7/10/tn-redline-adds-new-text-communication-capability.html or by calling or texting 1-800-889-9789.