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Question: The state of Georgia passed a law classifying GHB as a Schedule I drug. I have been using Olympia Nutrition’s RenewTrient (gamma-butyrolactone) for insomnia and depression. I feel that the benefits are remarkable. I realize that gamma-butyrolactone is not GHB, although it can be converted to GHB using strong alkali. While I have no intent to produce GHB, I am wondering if the state would try to argue that possession of the lactone is also illegal. This would seem to me to be a stretch since GABA would also be illegal under this doctrine of thought. Also, I understand that acetone-free nail polish removers also contain the lactone.

If possession of any amount of material containing GHB is illegal, are foods containing GHB illegal? The Georgia law states: “Any material, compound mixture, or preparation which contains any quantity of the following substances, their salts, isomers, (whether optical, position, or geometrics), and salts of isomers, unless specifically excepted, whenever the existance of these substances, their salts, isomers, and salts of isomers is possible within within the specific chemical designation: gamma hydroxybutyric acid (gamma hydroxy butyrate).” What is your opinion as to the legality of the lactone? ——JAP

Answer: You’ve asked some good questions that cut to the heart of the motives and tactics of the GHB prohibitionists. According to my understanding of the law, any amount of a Schedule I controlled substance is a violation of law which is normally considered a felony crime. However, since GHB is found in food, and everybody buys food to eat, roughly 99% of the citizens of Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Wisconsin are guilty of committing felony crimes on a regular basis. Supermarket food-store owners, managers and employees commit thousands of felonies per day, selling GHB-containing produce to hungry consumers. It is hard to immagine the degree of carelessness, ignorance and/or stupidity necessary for a government to criminalize its entire population, but in Georgia, it is even worse than that.

The Georgia law specifies that “positional isomers” of GHB are also Schedule I drugs. Those include 1) acetoacetate (otherwise known as beta-hydroxybutyrate), an essential metabolite of fat metabolism that is universally found in all foods and often found in the urine of people who are fasting or eating a low-carbohydrate diet, and 2) alpha-hydroxybutyrate (also known as “alpha-hydroxy,” one of the most popular of the alpha-hydroxy fruit acids which act as an exfoliant in popular cosmetics and skin-care products). Then, let us consider the Red Cross. Here is an organization that traffics in human blood products that may contain all three hydroxybutyrate positioner isomers. They not only collect the blood, which is mere “felony possession” of a controlled substance, but they sell it, which is “felony possession with intent to sell,” a crime which can result in a 30-years-to-life prison sentence in some states.

Given such idiocy, it is hard to answer your question as to whether or not the Georgia authorities would consider butyrolactone to be a controlled substance. In a professional, technical, scientific context, butyrolactone is not an optical, positional or geometric isomer of GHB. It is not any kind of isomer of GHB. However, it could be considered to be a precursor or a metabolite of GHB. Although the Georgia statute says nothing about precursors or metabolites, other states may. In a recent “emergency rule,” the Attorney General of Florida is broadening Florida’s anti-GHB law to include “any compound, derivative or preparation” of GHB including “any isomers, esters, ethers, or salts.” This definitely includes butyrolactone, which is a cyclic ester of GHB. The irony is that certain polymers used in polyester and polyester-blend clothing are also GHB esters. Felony clothing — that’s an interesting concept!

So while you may be technically in compliance with Georgia law regarding your use of butyrolactone, the people who make, interpret and enforce the law have not demonstrated sufficient smarts to understand neither the full implications nor the subtlety of that which they are attempting to control. Anybody and everybody is at risk. Please be careful. ——SWF & WD

If you can afford it, please consider retaining a lawyer to represent your interests in the matter. I would be happy to provide you with an affadavit attesting to the fact that 1) butyrolactone is not GHB, 2) butyrolactone is not a “compound, mixture or preparation” of GHB, and 3) butyrolactone is not any kind of isomer of GHB. Your lawyer could gather documents and prepare a defense prior to anything happening. If Georgia were to try anything against you, your lawyer could quickly and comprehensively oppose any charges at the initial bond hearing.

I was recently hired as a consultant for a legal case in Texas, where a man had been arrested for posession of GHB. In Texas, GHB is a Schedule I controlled substance. As part of the defense strategy, I undertook to analyze Texas beef for GHB. (Any meat would have sufficed, but I figured that the Oprah case had recently elevated beef’s public relations value.) Our strategy was to show that beef-purchasing Texans were equally criminals under the law as the defendant, and that the law scheduling GHB was therefore unconstitutional by several legal standards. Of course, the beef analysis came back positive for GHB. Interestingly, rather than have the case go to trial, the prosecutor agreed that there had been a technical deficiency in the original search warrant and dropped the case.

If anybody hears of a similar case in a Schedule-I state, please let me know. I’d love to have an opportunity to present this evidence in court. ——SWF