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GHB Letter

10 March 2000

To the Alabama Senate Committee on the Judiciary

re: A critique of the Attorney General’s statement to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Dear Senate Judiciary members,

While Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor is correct that the bill is “strictly about the trafficking of drugs that are already illegal to possess” and to sell, he completely misses the point of the testimony offered your committee. Foods that containing GHB (beef) are indeed “already illegal!” That is the point that the Mr. Pryor should be addressing — not ignoring.

If such foods as beef should not be illegal — a sentiment, I trust, upon which we can all agree — why should we extend the penalties for tiny amounts of such foods that are commonly sold and purchased by Alabama citizens? Do we really want to put all non-vegetarian Alabama citizens in prison for a minimum of three years?!! I presume not. A straightforward question for you to ask Mr. Pryor: Is there any exemption for foods in the controlled substances act? There is not. Any detectable amount is illegal. Period. Beef contains GHB. Therefore beef is illegal. Already.

Mr. Pryor is disingenuous if he thinks that special governmental permission to use GHB solves the problem of GHB in foods. Please ask Mr. Pryor, under oath if necessary, whether he had governmental permission to eat the last steak he ate. No? Then, under existing law, Mr. Pryor is an unindicted felon! Under the new law, upon conviction for his crime of eating a beefsteak of greater than two ounces, Mr. Pryor would have to spend a minimum of three years in prison and pay a minimum $50,000 fine. Does anybody in the state of Alabama sell a steak of less than two ounces?

Mr. Pryor is sworn to uphold Alabama’s present law making GHB a Schedule-I substance, yet chances are that he is personally violating that same law on a daily basis. For Mr. Pryor to prosecute defendants for GHB-related crimes and not prosecute himself for the same crime is not only hypocritical, it is illegal. Such selective enforcement and selective prosecution is forbidden by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which Mr. Pryor is presumably sworn to “protect and defend” from enemies “foreign and domestic.” Indeed, Mr. Pryor’s own admissions appear to qualify him as a “domestic enemy” of the Constitution. If so, he is unqualified to hold his current office.

Mr. Pryor is again disingenuous when he states, “neither of these drugs is currently recognized by Alabama or the federal government to have a legitimate use, and neither can be legally bought or sold in the United States.” He is wrong on both counts.

GHB is recognized by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) as an orphan-drug. In fact, all Phase-3 studies for GHB’s approval are already completed. The FDA has already decided that GHB will be approved in the year 2001. There are 15 IND reports on file with the FDA for legitimate medical uses of GHB, and the US National Library of Medicine Medline database contains hundreds of papers documenting at least as many more legitimate medical uses.

More importantly, neither Alabama nor the federal government determine “legitimate medical uses” of anything. Such determinations are made by medical professionals that establish a “standard of care,” which is supervised solely by the state (and not the feds). GHB is recognized as a legitimate therapy by many medical professionals and medical societies, even though it may not be so recognized by the American Medical Association or the Alabama Medical Association (if there is such an organization). I just made a presentation about GHB to the Society for Orthomolecular Health-Medicine at their annual conference in San Francisco last Friday, March 3rd. I can assure you that GHB is considered a “legitimate” therapeutic agent by members of that society. Most members were appalled to learn of the recent criminalizations of GHB.

Contrary to Mr. Pryor’s assertion, GHB is not a drug under federal law. The Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act defines dietary supplements as foods, and specifically, not drugs. GHB meets three separate provisions of the FDC Act that defines dietary supplements. Three! It is, by federal legal standards, officially, a food. Contrary to Mr. Pryor’s assertion, foods and dietary supplements may be freely sold throughout the US. The FDA’s “ban” of GHB is merely a press release, which has no legal standing whatsoever. Feel free to ask Mr. Pryor to ask the FDA for any “official documents” that make GHB illegal. There are none. There has been no FDA rulemaking procedure on GHB. There have been no FDA hearings on GHB (as required by the FDC Act). None. Nada.

You might want to ask Mr. Pryor if Alabama has an analog-drug statute. Most states do. In most states, analogs (structurally similar molecules) of Schedule-I substances are themselves scheduled substances, even though they are not specifically listed by name. GHB has ten (10!) naturally occurring analogs that are technically as illegal under the law as GHB is. These are:

It is my considered opinion that there are no whole foods which do not contain detectable levels of several of these GHB-analog substances. Please do not forget that these substances — and the foods in which they are contained — are “already illegal” under Alabama law.

Mr. Pryor’s statement that GHB cannot be bought or sold in the US is entirely fictitious. In point of fact, GHB (and its analogs) are currently sold in products in all 50 states. GHB in food is openly sold. GHB-containing plastics are openly sold. GHB-containing clothing is openly sold. GHB is sold by chemical companies throughout the US. GHB anhydride (gamma-butyrolactone, GBL) is one of the most widely distributed “green” solvents in use in the US. Millions of pounds of GBL are produced every year. Tanker trucks full of GBL travel our highways and rails. It is not only bought and sold legally, it is an economic backbone of our economy.

Ask Mr. Pryor if manufacture of GHB in an unlicensed facility is a felony crime in Alabama. Yes? Well, consumer products made from GBL (paint and varnish strippers, carburetor cleaners, automotive and transmission parts cleaners, acetone-free nail-polish removers, wax-stripping floor cleaners) produce GHB upon contact with water. That’s technically manufacture of GHB. It is so simple, it is hard to understand: GBL + H20 = GHB (GBL plus water equals GHB). Please understand that I am an organic chemist and court-approved witness on the chemistry of GHB, so I can assure you that I know precisely what I am saying. If you check the “solvent pits” and “waste water” of automotive and transmission shops and paint-stripping businesses, chances are that you will find GHB. Should these otherwise law-abiding Alabama citizens be prosecuted for manufacturing a Schedule-I substance? Does the state police garage use such products and is it licensed for the manufacture of Schedule-I substances? Remember, ignorance of the law is no excuse. This applies to citizens and law-enforcement officers alike.

Mr. Pryor’s recommendations for GHB are based on his misperceptions and outright falsehoods. They were flawed back in 1998 when he first recommended criminalizing GHB, and they are flawed now, as he stubbornly advocates increased penalties for a “crime” that encompasses the purchase of a quarter-pound burger.

Look at his “facts.” His “memo” states that GHB is a “liquid drug” when GHB (sodium GHB, sodium oxybate) is a white crystalline solid. He states that GHB “is virtually tasteless” when it is fully half as salty as pure table salt. He states that GHB kits are dangerous because “potency cannot be controlled” when the exact opposite is true (everything is premeasured to ensure exact potency). He states that GHB can be snorted. It cannot; any more than you can snort table salt. He states that GHB can be smoked. It isn’t smoked. It’s a flammable carbohydrate, like sugar, which carbonizes when heated. It can only be ingested or injected. GHB can cause loss of consciousness. (That’s one he got right!) However, it never causes liver failure; it actually enhances liver function by increasing NADH (coenzyme 1) reserves. GHB can cause vomiting and tremors (myoclonus) [Another correct statement!], but it does not cause respiratory suppression when taken without other respiratory-suppressing drugs. Nobody knows whether GHB increases the respiratory suppressing effects of other drugs that are well known to cause respiratory suppression (alcohol, narcotics, tranquilizers). Since scientists and physicians do not know this, Mr. Pryor certainly does not.

Ignorance is never a sound basis for determining public policy. Based on Mr. Pryor’s misinformation, a mistake has been made. There is no need to compound that mistake with a new law based on the same falsehoods. Instead, please consider the wisdom of fixing the mistake that has already been made. If you really want to stop date rape, there is a simple, technological solution that will not collaterally criminalize the human diet. If you are interested, please let me know.


Steven Wm. Fowkes
Executive Director

cc: Bill Pryor
Ward Dean, M.D.