Where does the list go?Early this morning I proceeded, as is my morning custom, to the Sanitary Drugstore for morning coffee with several other men of White Pine. Town gossip-political and otherwise- is the real reason for these morning gatherings, and they occurred long before I ever arrived on the scene around here. Everyone meets down at the drugstore around 8:30 or so. Some began their constitutional in the back of the hardware store and moved over to the Sanitary, while others just came straight to the old drugstore counter.
Each morning when we gather, we all get there at about the same time (sometimes the drugstore opens late, as it did this morning), but leaving is another matter. Most of us stagger out one at a time or in small groups as we finish with what we deem to be our portion of the coffee and conversation. Usually one or two of the guys and I will get on a hot topic and be there for a bit longer than others-this morning I was the last to leave. As I was finishing up my coffee and cleaning up, I noticed a large white truck that looked a bit like a small fire engine pull up to the drugstore and a nice fella get out. I couldn't help but overhear that he was having a conversation with the pharmacist in the back of the store that sounded jovial and friendly, and I couldn't tell what was being said but I did hear something about a book. The side of the truck said "TENNESSEE METHAMPHETAMINE LAB TASK FORCE."
I made the mistake of parking my chair too far away from the pharmacy door this morning, and so this gentleman was kind enough to help me step down to get to it. He had a list in his hand-the list of those who buy medications such as Sudafed, which possesses a base ingredient of meth. By law now in Tennessee, pharmacists must make those who purchase those over-the-counter drugs which may contain the ingredients for methamphetamines.
Meth use is the plague of small-town America, and especially the rural South. We are fortunate in communities like the one where I live to enjoy relatively low crime-but but a good deal of the serious crime we do have can be traced to drugs, and usually that means meth use and distribution. I am glad to see that the State is taking a serious and proactive role in addressing this very real problem. I have to admit that I question this particular means, however.
I asked the man with the truck if the list was what I thought it was, and he confirmed that I was correct. I was then forced to ask questions in my mind:
What happens to this list of names when this guy gets where he is going with it?
I am sure that addresses are on the list, and perhaps phone numbers-is this really a registry of who takes certain over-the-counter medicines?
The State of Tennessee gets to know who in White Pine takes what medicine, whether that is the intent of the law or not. Do I like that idea?
Who gets this list and where do the names go? Do people call these folks?
Do the people on the list all become suspects or persons of interest because they bought NyQuil or Sudafed? Does someone go scope out their house to determine if it is a meth lab?
Is this Constitutional?
Some of these questions may indeed seem far-fetched, but when a State agent (even a very friendly one) comes to the local drugstore and takes a list of names from the place, a conscientious citizen concerned about the maintenance of their liberty really ought to be asking them.
If this is all proven at some point to be Constitutionally suspect (and I must admit that I think it may very well be), we need a backup plan to deal with the meth problem in our rural communities aside from a list of names and addresses of likely-innocent citizens.