Meth submissions exceed pot for first time at TBI crime labs

Jeff Bobo • Jan 14, 2020 at 9:30 PM

KINGSPORT — Meth exceeded marijuana as the most submitted drug to the TBI’s crime labs for the first time in 2019, thanks to massive drug busts like the more than 1.5 pounds seized by Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office deputies Friday near Kingsport.

The HCSO Narcotics Unit raided the residence at 3900 Rocky Hill Lane just north of the Hawkins County portion of Kingsport after deputies received a tip that Victoria Ann Raney, 30, of that address, was there in possession of a large quantity of meth. 

“During the investigation, Raney allowed agents into the residence and gave written consent to search,” said Sheriff Ronnie Lawson. “During the search, agents located several bags of a crystal-like substance, believed to be methamphetamine. The total weight of the crystalline substance was approximately 708 grams (1 pound 9 ounces). Additionally, agents located a .22-caliber pistol that belonged to Raney.”

Lawson added, “While continuing the investigation, it was discovered that Raney has a previous felony conviction out of the state of Georgia for possession of methamphetamine. Raney was arrested and transported to the Hawkins County Jail for booking.”

On Monday, Raney was arraigned in Hawkins County Sessions Court on one count of possession of meth with intent to deliver. As of Tuesday, she remained held on $100,000 bond pending a preliminary hearing set for Jan. 22.

Meth exceeds pot at crime lab

On Monday, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation issued a report stating that for the first time since the TBI crime laboratories began keeping detailed statistics, methamphetamine eclipsed marijuana as the most-submitted drug in the state in 2019.

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.

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 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,” said TBI Director David Rausch. “Drug abusers often flow from depressants to stimulants and back again. As more people struggle with opioid addiction many of them will — with time — seek out stimulants like methamphetamine. Unfortunately, those who run drug operations, often based outside the United States, know there’s an increased demand here. 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.”

Meth arrests on the rise in Hawkins

Hawkins County’s meth epidemic continues to trend upward as well. According to stats submitted to the Times News by the HCSO this past December, in 2017 the agency placed 150 meth charges, with 20 of those indicted in federal court.

Although the number of meth charges dipped to 131 in 2018, the number of people indicted in federal court increased to 30. 

In 2019, however, the HCSO had placed approximately 205 meth charges with 55 suspects indicted in federal court.