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GHB Letter

21 December 1999

Senator Byron Sher
c/o Ross
260 Main Street
Redwood City, California, 94063 USA

Dear Senator Sher,

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 Commander Dominic Peloso and Officer Larry Shannon of the Menlo Park Police Department, but they were not able to ascertain a means by which I can continue to use butyrolactone in my business. I have also inquired at several Assembly offices (including Keith Honda’s), your own 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.

Enforcement of this new law will be a disaster.

Please be advised that these GHB-related, Schedule II chemicals will 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 4.

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, and even though they have no pharmacological effect whatsoever. That is what the law says.

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 fact that a broad selection of these chemicals are reliably found in food may mean that, technically, all food vendors in the state are committing felony crimes by selling GHB-containing foods and GHB-analog-containing foods to hungry citizens. The farming of Schedule-II vegetables and the slaughter of Schedule-II meat may also be considered felony enterprises. The sale of acetone-free nail polish remover by thousands of California pharmacies is technically the same crime as selling a cocaine-containing product. You voted for this?

The civil liability that the police might create by attempting to enforce this new law could bankrupt local municipalities. If the new law is enforced equally (in conformation with the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution), it will bankrupt the state. If it is enforced unequally (i.e., only against club goers, ravers and health food stores), it will violate the civil rights of California citizens that are persecuted. The only reasonable option is not to enforce the law.

Many of these substances have important health and medical uses. Police interference in prescribed therapies may have life-threatening consequences. Ignorance of the true scope of this law may have offered some degree of protection from liability, but now that I have begun the process of informing law enforcement agencies and the media of these consequences, civil remedies may apply.

I will apologize in advance if you did not vote for this legislative fiasco. Either way, I ask that you intercede with Governor Gray to officially prevent this law from being enforced, until such time that it can be repealed.

I am the Executive Director here at CERI, which operates 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. Our website ( contains extensive information on GHB, including a 17-page report that I prepared for the Senate Committee on Criminal Procedure, the Assembly Committee on Health, and the Assembly Committee on Public Safety (I hope I got those names right).

By the way, that report was ignored.

One of my deepest concerns is the way in which false and misleading statements by law enforcement officers were used to promote this new law, and the GHB law before it, without any accountability. When lawmakers condone official police deception in the legislative process, they send a bad message to California’s youth, who challenge the system as part of their search for identity. That the police were manipulated to this deception by FDA agents with an extralegal agenda towards these nutritional substances is not adequate apology nor sufficient excuse. I believe that this attempt by police to extend criminal penalties for possession of dietary substances 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

cc: Rep. Mike Honda
Hallye Jordan
Dr. Ward Dean
John Morgenthaler