Two months ago, the DEA ruled a 12-month emergency ban on synthetic cannabis chemicals being sold legally in convenience stores nationwide under the moniker, “Spice.” The emergence of Spice is a direct result of cannabis prohibition; nobody would buy fake weed if they could buy the real thing. Now that Spice has also been banned, another legal drug is popping up to fulfill the demand of drug consumers who are deprived of their natural birthright to the perfectly safe pleasure-chemicals provided by marijuana.
This time, instead of harsh herb clippings sprayed with synthetic cannabis, we have deadly bath salts on our hands. Sold once more in convenience stores throughout the USA under names like Vanilla Sky and Ivory Wave, these salts contain a synthetic stimulant called mephedrone. This is an amphetamine-class chemical that can be smoked, snorted, injected or simply mixed with water. Even mild users report that the hallucinations the drug induces are horrible, with psychosis a regularly re-occurring result.
Mark Ryan, director of the Louisiana Poison Center, has reported a case of mephedrone psychosis involving a man sealing himself inside his attic with a rifle and vowing to “kill the monsters before they kill me.” Another case Ryan has reported involves a bath salt user vowing to remove his own liver using a mechanical pencil as a surgical tool.
Now the DEA is considering enacting another 12-month ban on the amphetamine bath salts, just like it did with Spice, except this time I agree that the drug in question should be restricted. Health of the user and addiction potential are legitimate measures to go by when considering if a chemical should be restricted. These bath salts are clearly a health problem, and evidence suggests that these salty stimulants have massive potential for addiction, similar to other amphetamine drugs.
What the DEA refuses to realize is that the rise of methed-out bath salts is of its own doing. The only person who checks in to a rehabilitation clinic for marijuana is someone who was ordered to do so by a court of law, or a supremely lazy person. At no point in history has independent evidence suggested that marijuana induces permanent psychosis or is physiologically addicting. Both characteristics have been attributed to the meth salts.
The problem of the psycho bath salts is in the same category as the problem of methamphetamine. Mark Thornton of Mises.org explains the phenomenon in terms of free market economics: “The scourge of crystal meth is another example of the ‘potency effect’ or what has been called the ‘iron law of prohibition.’ When government enacts a prohibition, increases enforcement or increases penalties on a good such as alcohol or drugs, it inevitably results in substitution to more adulterated, more potent and more dangerous drugs.”
Everything in our world today comes down to money. If you ban a drug, the price will rise. If the price of one good or service rises, the opportunity for substitute goods or services to compete will manifest as a new market. If there were no War on Drugs, users would return to the safest, most economically viable source of pleasure-chemicals. There is no drug that can be created more safely and easily than marijuana. If it were legalized, the price of marijuana would fall to its natural level, far below what it is today. Between $40 bath salts, an 8-ball of cocaine for $80 and a $10 eighth of marijuana, even a heavily-addicted drug user is eventually going to figure out the true value.
Thornton summarizes the answer to this problem in easy terms; the DEA should cut the bullshit and just legalize weed: “So the solution is quite simple, really: end the drug war. Less enforcement and lower penalties would reduce the price of marijuana and shift demand from crystal meth back to marijuana, a drug that has few of the problems associated with meth.”
As a Reno native, Daily Nexus drug columnist and human being who has seen his fair share of weird shit in life, I can declare that the one drug I truly hate is methamphetamine. Now bath salts are being sold that are causing similar mental health problems to those induced by meth, and once more it is the natural result of one massive stupid decision — the decision to criminalize a plant called cannabis.
Go ahead and ban every pleasure-chemical you can find, National Drug Control Policy Chief Gil Kerlikowske, but you won’t win this war. For every hundred cops you put on the street, there will still be one rogue chemist who will outwit them all. For every thousand dollars taken through drug court sentencing, there will still be a million dollars made by drug dealers selling substitute stimulants. Finally, for every man that obeys the federal drug laws out of fear, there will still be a dozen that ignore them because they know: drug policy in America is made by black boot fuck-ups and retards.