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GHB Letter

21 December 1999

Sheriff Don Horsley
San Mateo County Sheriff
400 County Center
Redwood City, California, 94063 USA

Dear Sheriff Horsley,

For the last month, I have been trying to find out how to come into compliance with a new law attaching Schedule II status to GHB isomers, analogs and precursors. One of my specific interests in this issue is butyrolactone, which I use as a solvent to clean ink-jet cartridges when I refill them. I have been in touch with the Menlo Park Police Department, but they were unable to find out anything either. I have also inquired at several Assembly offices, Senator Sher’s office, the Governor’s office, the Department of Justice’s Narcotics Department, the California Board of Pharmacy, and the Assembly Committee on Public Safety. I have yet to get a clear explanation of how I or any other citizen of California are supposed to come into compliance with the new law. The legal counsel of the Committee on Public Safety told me that any kind of possession of these GHB-related substances will be flat out illegal. I am still waiting to hear from the DOJ Chemicals Regulation Unit about their registration procedures.

Since the only assertive opinion is that all “isomers, esters, ethers, precursors and salts” of GHB are going to be illegal as of January 1, 2000, I am sending you this certified letter to make you aware of the full extent of consequences should you attempt to enforce this new law. I trust you will forward copies of this letter to your legal and narcotics departments.

Please be advised that these GHB-related, Schedule II chemicals include: 1) GHB (a simple carbohydrate nutrient found in the human body which is ubiquitous in the human diet in both animal- and plant-based foods), 2) alpha-hydroxybutyrate (also known as “alpha hydroxy,” it is commonly found in apples, apple juice and a broad selection of premium skin-care products sold in California), 3) beta-hydroxybutyrate (also known as “beta hydroxy,” this is the newest of the cosmetics ingredients now being promoted in California, and a major metabolite of “fasting” human metabolism), 4) 1,4-butanediol (a lipid component of animal skin, also found in corn and yeast, and a common monomer for polyester, polyether and polycarbonate plastics used in a plethora of consumer products), 5) GABA (gamma-aminobutyrate, a food component and dietary supplement sold in every health food store in the area and in a significant number of supermarkets and drug stores, and a monomer for certain nylons), 6) butyrolactone (a solvent chemical used extensively in industry, a major ingredient in acetone-free nail-polish remover sold in almost every drug store in California, and a naturally occurring trace chemical of the human body), 7) all polymer plastics and resins made from GHB, GABA, and 1,4-butanediol (which include harder-than-steel automotive parts used in police vehicles, polyester clothing, polycarbonate water bottles, nylon-4 rope, and hundreds of other plastic products too numerous to mention), 8) glutamate (also known as monosodium glutamate or MSG, an essential amino acid found in all meat and vegetable foods, often added to processed foods as a flavor enhancer, also known as “Accent”), 9) alpha-ketoglutarate (a ubiquitous food-based chemical, dietary supplement and ingredient in intravenous feeding formulas, weight-loss products, and body-building supplements), 10) glutamine (a non-essential amino acid found in all animal and vegetable foods, a popular dietary supplement and also an ingredient in intravenous feeding formulas), 11) tetrahydrofuran (an industrial chemical, solvent, and monomer for polyethers), and 12) butyrolactam (an industrial chemical used in making nylon plastics and other polyamide resins). The metabolic pathways and isomer and analog relationships are illustrated for you on page 3.

Please keep in mind that the California analog-drug law also specifies that “structural analogs” of these GHB-related chemicals are also equally controlled, even though they may not be mentioned specifically.

As you might be able to see, the equal enforcement of this new law will decimate California industry. Although products containing these substances may be legally manufactured in California if appropriate DOJ paperwork is filed, none of these products can be legally sold at a retail level within the state. Although California-based companies may still export their Schedule-II products to other states, the loss of the California market would be catastrophic to California businesses, not to mention to the citizens who would not be able to purchase any product which contained any of the above ingredients.

The civil liability that you might create by attempting to enforce this law, either equally (in conformation with the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution) or unequally (in violation of 14th Amendment), might very well bankrupt local taxpaying citizens. Many of these substances have important health and medical uses. Police interference in prescribed therapies may have life-threatening consequences. Ignorance of these issue may have offered some degree of protection, but now that I have informed you of these issues, knowledgeable selective enforcement of an unconstitutional and unenforceable law is probably actionable.

I am the Executive Director here at CERI, which I run out of my residence at 1942 Menalto Avenue, within your jurisdiction. We operate as a think tank and information clearinghouse for nutritional, herbal and pharmaceutical treatments for cognitive conditions of all types. We publish a newsletter, Smart Life News, which is distributed to subscribers in 40 countries. I am an organic chemist by degree and have been qualified to testify as an expert witness in Federal Court on the chemistry of GHB. I have advised a few police, paramedical and coroner’s departments in the past, and am willing to advise your department as well. Call if you want to talk about it. Our website ( contains extensive information on GHB, the kind of which is not discussed by FDA and DEA agents.

One of my deepest concerns is that false and misleading statements by law enforcement officers to the public and press will further undermine public confidence in the police. This is unnecessary and counterproductive to public safety and welfare. There is no need for your drug-enforcement activities to be damaged by uncritical acceptance of “helpful” advice of FDA agents, who have an extralegal agenda towards these nutritional substances. I believe that this attempt by police (who are being manipulated to support this new law) to extend criminal penalties for possession of dietary supplements will likely boomerang in the long run by undermining public respect for the police and making law enforcement more difficult than it already is.

I’d like to see that that not happen.

Thank you for your attention to these matters.


Steven Wm. Fowkes
Executive Director