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GHB Letter

28 December 1999

Alan Wisotsky
Attorney for Ventura County Sheriff’s Department
300 Esplanade Drive
Oxnard, California, 93030 USA

Dear sir,

I am sending you this letter to make you aware of legal issues relating to possible drug-enforcement activities regarding analogs and precursors of gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB). Please read this letter in its entirety. Similar letters have been sent to Sheriff Brooks and Captain Carpenter.

My qualifications: I am the Executive Director of CERI, which operates as a think tank and information clearinghouse for nutritional, herbal and pharmaceutical treatments for cognitive conditions of all types. We have been reporting on the nutritional and medical applications of GHB for years. 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 in Federal Court on the chemistry of GHB. I have supervised a forensic analysis of beef which establishes that it contains GHB. I have scientific papers which document GHB-related chemical content of numerous foods. I have advised a few police, paramedical and coroner’s departments in the past, and would be willing to consider advising your department as well.

Background: About a year ago, the California Legislature added GHB to the Schedule II category. This year, a new law (AB 924) specifies that as of January 1, 2000, all isomers, esters, ethers, salts and precursors of GHB will also be Schedule II substances (see illustration, page 3). Please keep in mind that the analog-drug act also specifies that analogs of these GHB-related chemicals are also equally controlled, even though they may not be mentioned specifically.

Please be advised that these GHB-related chemicals include:
1) Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate (GHB), a simple carbohydrate nutrient found in the human body and ubiquitous in both animal and plant foods.
2) Alpha-Hydroxybutyrate, also known as “alpha hydroxy,” commonly found in apples, apple juice and a broad selection of premium skin-care products, in which it is used as an exfoliant.
3) Beta-Hydroxybutyrate, also known as “beta hydroxy,” the newest of the skin-care ingredients now being advertized in California. BHB is also a major metabolite of “fasting” human metabolism.
4) 1,4-Butanediol, a component of animal skin lipids, also found in corn and yeast. 1,4-BD is a common monomer for polyester, polyether and polycarbonate plastics used in a plethora of consumer products. Some unreacted 1,4-BD remains in those plastics.
5) GABA, gamma-aminobutyrate, a food component and dietary supplement sold in every health food store and a significant number of food supermarkets and drug stores. GABA is also a monomer for nylon polymers.
6) Gamma-Butyrolactone, a solvent chemical used extensively in industry, a major ingredient in acetone-free nail-polish remover sold in almost every drug store, and a naturally occurring chemical of the human body.
7) All plastics and resins made from GHB, GABA, and 1,4-butanediol. These include harder-than-steel automotive parts, polyester clothing, polycarbonate water bottles, nylon-4 rope, blood plasma extenders and hundreds of other 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. MSG is sold in supermarkets as “Accent.”
9) Alpha-Ketoglutarate, a food-based chemical, dietary supplement and ingredient in intravenous feeding formulas.
10) Glutamine, a non-essential amino acid found in all animal and vegetable foods, a popular dietary supplement, and an ingredient in intravenous feeding formulas.
11) Tetrahydrofuran, an industrial chemical, solvent, and monomer for polyether plastics and resins.
12) Gamma-Butyrolactam, an industrial chemical used in making nylon plastics and other polyamides.
13) All structural analogs of the above.

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. The damage to California consumers would be far worse. Many of these compounds are found in foods.

The civil liability that you might create by enforcement 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. In addition to their commercial uses, 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 offer some degree of protection from civil penalties, but knowledgeable selective enforcement of an unconstitutional and unenforceable law may be actionable.

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 your institution. 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 to criminalize possession of dietary supplements will likely boomerang in the long run by undermining public respect and making law enforcement more difficult than it already is.

Thank you for your attention to these matters. Please call if you have any questions.


Steven Wm. Fowkes
Executive Director