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GHB Letter

11 January 2000

Troy L. Beaverson, Director
Office of Legislative Affairs
Office of Attorney General
Strawberry Square, 16th Floor
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 17120 USA

Re: Ramifications of Senate Bill 798

Dear Director Beaverson,

I am inquiring on behalf of one of my subscribers as to the meaning of the language of SB 798. It is my understanding that this new law amends the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act by assigning Schedule-I status to GHB-related chemicals, except 1) gamma-butyrolactone (GBL), and 2) any FDA-approved GHB-containing new drug, which will be automatically assigned Schedule-III status at the time of its approval. Before I ask the questions, I will briefly establish 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.

Question 1: To what Schedule, if any, is gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) assigned?

Question 2: Since GBL spontaneously converts to GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) when mixed with water, do non-scheduled GBL-containing materials become illegal when they are mixed with water due to their passive chemical conversion to GHB?

GBL-containing products (such as varnish and paint strippers, automotive- and transmission-parts cleaners, and floor-wax strippers) are historically intended (by their label directions) to be used with water. Question 3: Are manufacturers of GBL-containing products being instructed by Pennsylvania authorities to change their label instructions? A related question: Should consumers be advised by warning labels that they could be subject to felony prosecution for possession of GHB and/or unlicensed manufacture of a controlled substance if they use such products with water?

Section VI states that “hydroxybutyric compounds” and “isomers” of GHB are to be Schedule I. Question 4: Are premium cosmetics and skin-care products containing alpha-hydroxybutyrate (AHB, popularly known as “alpha hydroxy”) and/or beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB, or “beta hydroxy”) now illegal in Pennsylvania? AHB and BHB are both hydroxybutyrates, and they are both isomers of GHB. This makes them doubly Schedule-I substances. The related question: Are cosmetics manufacturers, drug stores, beauty parlors and department stores in Pennsylvania being advised to cease and desist retail sale of such products lest they be charged with “unlicensed manufacture” of a Schedule-I substance or “possession with intent to sell” a Schedule-I substance? Is there any law or regulation which exempts such cosmetics products from the controlled-substance statutes?

Section VI also states that “esters” and “ethers” of GHB are also Schedule-I substances. Question 5: Since some polyesters are made from GHB, and many other polyesters, polyethers, polycarbonates, polyurethanes, polyamides (Nylon-4) and polyvinylpyrrolidones are made from “derivatives” of GHB, are such polymers, elastomers, plastics, resins and coatings now illegal in Pennsylvania? Is the unreacted monomer content of these polymer substances sufficient to make them illegal? If not, why? Is there a statute or regulation which specifically exempts such products from the controlled-substance law?

And finally, Question 6: Since GHB itself is a naturally occurring carbohydrate nutrient which is found in foods, what legal justification do you have for continuing to allow GHB-containing foods to be sold in Pennsylvania? I have a forensic analysis of beef (which I supervised) which establishes that it contains appreciable GHB (scientific papers suggest that GHB is found in all animal flesh). My understanding of controlled substance law is that any amount of a Schedule-I substance makes the entire product a Schedule-I substance. If true, a side of beef is technically several hundred pounds of Schedule-I substance. Possession with intent to sell a hundred pounds of Schedule-I substance is usually 30 years to life. Should all Pennsylvania butchers go to prison?

In California we have an analog-drug law which specifies that “analogs” of controlled substances are equally controlled. The legal criteria for an analog is either 1) structural similarity to a controlled substance, or 2) pharmacological similarity to the controlled substance. Most states have such laws. Even though butyrolactone is specifically not included in your new GHB scheduling law, it is a close structural analog of GHB and it produces a strikingly similar pharmacological effect, either criteria of which is sufficient in California to give it scheduled status. Question 5: did anybody consider the legal consequences of expanding the list of scheduled substances into nutritional carbohydrate compounds for which there are dozens if not hundreds of analogs which are naturally occurring chemicals found in the food we must eat to survive? If the analog-drug statutes are now made overly broad by the scheduling of GHB, they may be declared unconstitutional. What kind of damage might this do Pennsylvania’s ability to prosecute “designer” drug dealers?

The molecular illustration on page 4 demonstrates the precursor, isomer and analog status of a series of chemicals and nutrients related to GHB. Please examine it closely so that you may rationally determine a policy of enforcement that is compatible with both science and human rights. Please feel free to have it examined by an independent expert in biochemisty.

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


Steven Wm. Fowkes
Executive Director