Charge First, Research Later

When Bismarck, North Dakota, police found eight ounces of the newly illegal psychedelic herb Salvia divinorum in Kenneth Rau's house last April, they claimed it was enough for about 900 doses. Rau—who appears to be the first American prosecuted for possession of salvia, which remains legal in most of the country—therefore faced a charge of possessing salvia with intent to deliver. Press accounts say that's a Class A felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. The online version of the North Dakota Code (PDF) says it's a Class B felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison (Class A being reserved for possession of narcotics, methamphetamine, or more than 100 pounds of marijuana with intent to deliver). Either way, the potential penalty was much more severe than Rau anticipated when he bought the salvia for $35 on eBay in December. North Dakota's salvia ban had taken effect the previous August, and Rau (quite plausibly) says he was not aware of it.

The Drug War Chronicle reports that Rau recently was offered a plea bargain under which he would have spent five years in prison, which someone facing the possibility of 10 or 20 years might seriously consider. Rau, who insists (again, quite plausibly) that the salvia was strictly for his own use, turned down the offer. It's a good thing he did, because shortly thereafter the prosecution admitted that police had overestimated the number of salvia doses in Rau's possession by a factor of more than 100. According to a story in today's Bismarck Tribune, "Burleigh County Assistant State's Attorney Cynthia Feland said in court on Wednesday that authorities researched salvia divinorum and learned that the amount Rau had was about 8 doses." The salvia charge therefore has been reduced to a Class C felony, which carries a maximum penalty of five years.

The Drug War Chronicle notes another example of the drug cops' ignorance about drugs: Rau was initially charged with possession of psilocybin because he had, in addition to the salvia, Amanita muscaria (a.k.a. fly agaric) mushrooms. Police later dropped that charge because they "figured out that amanita does not contain psilocybin."

The Tribune profiles Rau here. My previous post on his case is here. My comments on the broader salvia crackdown are here and here. Last year I touched on the distinction between psilocybin mushrooms and the cooler-looking (but less fun) fly agaric in a book review.

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  • Elemenope||

    "If you were a roofer, and you built a roof, and it was two feet off...you'd still be serving time."

  • Anti-Globalism||

    This has just gotten downright silly.

    Eliminate welfare, drug treatment programs and drug laws. Keep the cash in the country and let natural selection remove the weak drug users.

  • No Comment||

    Did the police uncover any other illegal drugs in their search, besides the salvia?

    I would be very surprised if it is actually the case that this unfortunate gentleman does not use any other psychedelic substances other than salvia and legal strains of mushrooms.

    "Cannabis? No. LDS, illegal 'shrooms? Nope. I just prefer salvia, what can I say?"

    Just because you have the moral right to put whatever you choose into your body does not mean that your taste in psychedelics is not absolutely shitty.

    We need to smoke this guy out and get him some doses of MDMA before he goes off to the slammer. At least he'll go to jail having done some pleasurable substances first.

  • Elemenope||

    Eliminate welfare, drug treatment programs and drug laws. Keep the cash in the country and let natural selection remove the weak drug users.

    Holy shit, that's like *seven* ideologies in twenty-three words. Some of which directly contradict.

    That's unbelievably amazing.

  • ||

    anti-globalism,
    I completely agree with you, but you gotta be careful with certain arguments. part of your statement hints at social darwinism, which is a flawed philosophy and it certainly does not help the fight. I don't think we should be muddying the waters by associating anti-drug war debates with that kind of philosopy.

  • ||

    Burleigh County Assistant State's Attorney Cynthia Feland said in court on Wednesday that authorities researched salvia divinorum and learned that the amount Rau had was about 8 doses." The salvia charge therefore has been reduced to a Class C felony, which carries a maximum penalty of five years.

    This makes me wonder: if he had pleaded guilty to the Class B (intent to deliver 900 doses) and then it was found later that that's physically impossible...what then?

    Oh and standard disclaimer: Hey hey ho ho this Drug War shit has got to go.

  • NoStar||

    Ignorance of the law is no excuse,... unless you are a cop.

  • Bob||

    Dude, 8 oz. of salvia is way way more than 8 doses. 900 sounds about right to me. How could you even consume an ounce of salvia in one sitting?

  • ||

    Speaking of social Darwinism, here's an excellent article by Damon Root from last month about how it came to be maliciously and falsely associated with free markets and libertarianism.

    http://www.reason.com/news/show/127794.html

  • SIV||

    Eliminate welfare,publicly funded drug treatment programs and drug laws(excepting fraud in labeling). Keep the cash in the country when purchasers choose domestically produced drugs and let natural selection personal responsibility remove the weak drug users.

    Does that fix it for everyone?

  • Elemenope||

    Does that fix it for everyone?

    No.

    (But I admire your pluck.)

  • bill||

    This is complete BS, but 8 ounces? Thats way more that 8 doses. Plus, 8 ounces for $35? The cheapest Salvia on Ethnosupply.com is $26 a gram. Giving this guy 5 years for this is so completely out of bounds the prosecutor, if an elected office, should be thrown out. A felony for Salvia? C'mon.

  • bill||

    Oops, the cheapest is $13 dollars a gram.

  • ed||

    Yikes. Perhaps the tried and true method of paying your friendly neighborhood dealer for the priviledge of purchasing (at outlandish markups) said substances is the best course of action, given these uncertain times. Not that there's anything wrong (or right) with that.

  • Anonymo the Anonymous||

    I wonder if the police were confused over whether this was untreated salvia leaf or processed stuff. Since the concentrations of the active ingredients are not very high in the natural leaf, it's commonly sold in an enhanced form where salvinorin A has been extracted from a large amount of plant mass and then reapplied to a smaller amount of leaf for a more potent dose.

    Dude, 8 oz. of salvia is way way more than 8 doses. 900 sounds about right to me. How could you even consume an ounce of salvia in one sitting?

    Erowid seems to agree with you if we're talking about smoked doses, even if this was untreated leaf (8 oz = ~ 230 g) but if you're counting doses via sublingual administration, it actually would be about eight or nine doses (though I can't imagine anyone stuffing an ounce of leaves under their tongue).

    And if the ban talk has made you curious, don't bother; this shit is no fun at all.

  • ed||

    I wonder if the police were confused

    Ya think?

  • Elemenope||

    And if the ban talk has made you curious, don't bother; this shit is no fun at all.

    Actually, the anectdotals I've heard about the stuff break 50/50.

    Any chemical that is fun for half and not fun for the other half is by definition *interesting*...at least to me. ;)

  • Anonymo the Anonymous||

    Yeah if you're the kind of person who just has to try it once, go ahead; that's why I did and it wasn't a "bad trip" or anything, it was just weird, and not in a good way, and I didn't get anything positive out of the experience. Not worth the effort of trying to smoke this stuff correctly (it's a little more complicated than just passing a bowl around; you're supposed to burn it really, really hot and take a few big rips quickly, at least that's how I was advised). If you want a psychedelic experience, there are much better options and if you want just a fun/relaxing evening, stick to your preferred booze/weed/reasonable opiates.

  • Elemenope||

    stick to your preferred booze/weed/reasonable opiates.

    Now THAT is how multiple choice is meant to be done!

  • ed||

    4-packs of 16 oz. Keystone Ice cans are $1.99 at my local legal dealer.
    Safe, effective, and wholly approved by cops everywhere!

  • ||

    What a bunch of STUPID COPS. Wow, there must be NO real crime at all in that hillbilly town. yee Haw.

    JT
    http://www.Ultimate-Anonymity.com

  • Elemenope||

    Safe, effective, and wholly approved by cops everywhere!

    Sure, if you like drinking piss.

    Real beer costs money.

  • Jon||

    Elemenope | August 15, 2008, 8:06pm | #

    Sure, if you like drinking piss.

    Real beer costs money.


    Sam Adams ... Brewer ... Patriot ... MMMMMM Beer.

  • Frank Booth ||

    Fuck that shit! Pabst Blue Ribbon!

  • ||

    This persecution...I mean, prosecution is laughable to everyone but the victim. The victim who was harmed by drug laws, that is. These absurdities are becoming increasingly commonplace (Cheye Calvo, Marc Emery, et al.)The very inanity of "drug warriors" is coming back to haunt them. I hope Rau goes free, and I hope that these prosecutorial excesses increase to the point where Americans take America back from those who would implement fascism.

  • Elemenope||

    I hope that these prosecutorial excesses increase to the point where Americans take America back from those who would implement fascism.

    I too agree that if we drive enough farm animals over the minefield we will have enough mutton-chops for everyone!

    Or was that not the point you were trying to make?

  • ||

    """"This makes me wonder: if he had pleaded guilty to the Class B (intent to deliver 900 doses) and then it was found later that that's physically impossible...what then?"""

    He'd be shit outta luck. You can't appeal something you admit. If the state has a change of heart they could reduce his sentence, but not likely.

    We all know the reason thay came up with 900 doses is because it's big and scary number. A number big enough to make most people take a plea. I'm glad he didn't

  • Little Bo Peep\'s Grill||

    Mmmmmmmmmm mutton chops lightly brined and rubbed with with cracked black pepper rosemary and thyme grilled medium rare over applewood and charcoal served with pilaf, a seasonal vegetable and fresh baked yeast rolls.

  • Elemenope||

    Sam Adams ... Brewer ... Patriot ... MMMMMM Beer.

    Sam Adams Oktoberfest is my favorite domestic, though my favorite all-time beer is a tie between Newcastle Honey Brown Ale and Guinness Extra Stout.

  • ||

    part of your statement hints at social darwinism, which is a flawed philosophy and it certainly does not help the fight.

    What is wrong with social darwinism? How much do we really owe to stupid people? Stupidity should be painful, or, if necessary, deadly. By ameliorating the pain or death, it is almost as if we promote said stupidity.

    I would love that meth be perfectly legal and then watch some idiots explode their brains or heart. Good, I say. Take those stupid genes out of the gene pool.

  • Rimfax||

    Anybody with a link to the inevitable Barr editorial about how this guy doesn't deserve our sympathy?

  • No Comment||

    Elemenope,

    I agree with your slections of beer, although I prefer the traditional variety of Guinness.

    May I suggest Boulder Beer's Hazed and Infused dry-hopped pale ale? Also, you've got to respect the Sam Adams Boston Lager, as previously noted.

    Someone above mentioned S.A.'s Oktoberfest as their best seasonal. Excellent choice.

    Should we also disucss our favorite cannabis strains?

  • Nigel Watt||

    Salvia is interesting.

    Scary as fuck, though. It's like a roller coaster. You're like WHARRRGARBL the whole time, then afterwards you're like "OK, that was...what the fuck."

  • ||

    The good part of Alzheimer's is not knowing what's going on any of the time. Beats having to spend money gettin' your head all messed up. You youngsters will know what I'm talkin' about someday.

  • ||

    All cops need to have an IQ of 130

  • Yahoo Answerer||

    If cops in Bismark are concerned with Salvia divinorum I assume that there is no murder, no theft, no rape, no spouse abuse, no child abuse and no littering. Must be a great place!

  • ||

    I don't ask for much in life. I rarely protest when things don't go precisely my own way.

    That said, I calmly, politely, humbly ask the esteemed editors at Hit & Run, the finest political blog on the internet,

    WHERE THE HELL IS MY WEEKEND POLITICAL THREAD?

  • Episiarch||

    I agree with your slections of beer, although I prefer the traditional variety of Guinness.

    You know what's fun? Walking into a pub in London and ordering a Guinness. When they draw you a cold Guinness because of your American accent, you get pissed and demand a room-temperature one. The look of confusion on the bartender's face is priceless.

  • Anti-Globalism||

    Pinette,

    Social Darwinism is the idea that the amount of money a person earns determines his or her fitness, or correlates to fitness.

    Saying that people who take drugs, AND THEN screw up their lives and are eliminated, is natural selection does not constitute an endorsement of Social Darwinism, of which I am skeptical for the reasons you mentioned.

    Social Darwinism is the basis of such sketchy philosophy as that of Ayn Rand; it is also inherent in raw libertarianism.

  • Yahoo Answerer||

    Anti-Globalism:

    Social Darwinism does not mean what you think it means. Check out this article:
    http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761579584/Social_Darwinism.html

  • Anti-Globalism||

    Yahoo Answerer:

    You are incorrect. Struggle in society is determined by economics, as this article points out:

    http://www.crf-usa.org/bria/bria19_2b.htm

  • Elemenope||

    Social Darwinism, regardless of its form, is defined primarily by attempting to apply observations of relative fitness as normative, rather than descriptive. It does not matter if the type of fitness being analyzed is medical, economic, cultural, or anything else.

    And it's really, really stupid.

  • ||

    Natural selection is the process by which favorable heritable traits become more common in successive generations of a population, and unfavorable heritable traits become less common.

    I think I have read research on addiction/abuse claiming that it is hereditary. Can't ref it though, please let me know if anyone has contradictory research results handy.

    As such, drug users killing themselves with drugs would seem to just be plain old natural selection - not "social Darwinism" which is it's own thing and (like Communism) somewhat attractive on it's face but pretty much completely proven not to work/be real.

  • Elemenope||

    Natural selection is the process by which favorable heritable traits become more common in successive generations of a population, and unfavorable heritable traits become less common.

    I think I have read research on addiction/abuse claiming that it is hereditary.


    It is likely that addiction has a hereditary factor, but what is *not* clear is whether the adaptation is deleterious, neutral, or advantageous.

    A pre-disposition to addictive behavior may have other less apparent affects, such as a pre-disposition to slight obsessive-compulsiveness (that can sometimes be correlated with high achievement and drive). Not for nothing, but that fact that many famous and successful people are revealed to be addicted to drugs may be an interesting correlation indicating that in modern society, a pre-disposition to addiction may not in fact be deleterious or counter-adaptive.

  • Yahoo Answerer||

    You said "Social Darwinism is the idea that the amount of money a person earns determines his or her fitness, or correlates to fitness."

    It is not money in and of itself that determines a person's fitness. It is the ability to survive and reproduce in whatever the given environment happens to be. A housewife (or househusband for that matter) may not earn a dime but live very, very well and pass her genetic code to the next generation. She may be providing things that money cannot buy such as love, a deep commitment to children and providing valuable services to her spouse.

  • Yahoo Answerer||

    The above comment was directed at Anti-Globalism

  • ||

    troy wrote:
    What is wrong with social darwinism? How much do we really owe to stupid people? Stupidity should be painful, or, if necessary, deadly. By ameliorating the pain or death, it is almost as if we promote said stupidity.

    I would love that meth be perfectly legal and then watch some idiots explode their brains or heart. Good, I say. Take those stupid genes out of the gene pool.


    First, it's just a factual error to say that the best or only way to reduce stupidity overall is by means of heartless neglect and outright cruelty. After all, the stupidity or intelligence of a given human being is not set in stone or locked into its genes -- environmental factors have a not insignificant impact (if I may resort to staggering understatement). If reducing stupidity overall were our only goal, humane social practices (e.g., education, healthy upbringing, developed intellectual culture) might well rank among the most effective tools.

    Second, it is vicious to be so dedicated to the goal of reducing stupidity overall that you are willing to treat your fellow human beings with neglect and cruelty. Being more concerned with the overall stats of the human race than with individual people with lives of their own is a form of moral blindness. And being so contemptuous of stupid people that you lose all compassion for them is downright pathological.

  • Phillip Conti||

    it is vicious to be so dedicated to the goal of reducing stupidity overall that you are willing to treat your fellow human beings with neglect and cruelty

    I just wanted to know precisely we got to the stage in western civilization to think that leaving people to their own devices is thought to be vicious.

  • ||

    Before Reason does anymore reporting about the "hallucinogenic" effects of Salvia, I would seriously suggest that someone at the magazine actually try smoking it. I got conned into buying some once in college, by some head shop owner who was talking about how it's hallucinogenic, etc., etc. And you know what? It didn't do a damn thing! I decided I'd been scammed and never bought any again. When I hear you guys describing salvia as "hallucinogenic," or a "legal high," I just have to wonder if you've ever tried smoking it? Or know anyone who has? Because in my experience, it doesn't get you high at all. Am I wrong about this? Someone please smoke some, and then get back to me.

  • ||

    Social Darwinism is the basis of such sketchy philosophy as that of Ayn Rand; it is also inherent in raw libertarianism.

    Well, I'm unacquainted with the fine points of Objectivism, but I will say that social darwinism is not inherent in libertarianism.

    Libertarianism advocates keeping the government as small as possible, while still providing core "night watchman" and dispute resolution functions.

    It says nothing about who should reproduce or in what numbers; in fact, in a developed society where the state does not intervene in reproduction, large families seem to be associated less with the upper quartiles of income/wealth than with the lower.

  • ||

    LMNOP -

    I take it by your argument that it does seem to be a question of natural selection instead of "social Darwinism".

    I would posit that very few successful people are addicted to an intoxicating drug. The few that are noticed get attention because of their rarity.

    As for famous - pllbbt.

    PS. Predisposition to drug abuse could lead to spreading your seed widely, perhaps providing some evolutionary advantage...

  • uffff....||

    Traditionally, one is not supposed to be smoking salvia anyways - Mexican natives chewed the leaves. We do everything wrong- smoke salvia, extract cocaine from coke leaves, chain smoke tobacco,...

    As far as I understand, they found 8 oz of normal strength leaves, no extra salvinorin A added, so it is possibly around 9 doeses with very mild effects. Most of what people smoke these days seems to be 40x, 60x, etc.- equivalent to drinking pure alcohol if you ask me.

    He should fight this - it is ridiculous.

  • ||

    Philip Conti wrote:
    I just wanted to know precisely we got to the stage in western civilization to think that leaving people to their own devices is thought to be vicious.

    I'll explain what I mean, and you can tell me if I've misunderstood your views or the views of those who defend "Social Darwinism".

    First, it is one thing to "leav[e] people to their own devices", and it is quite another to rejoice in and take pleasure in the suffering and the death of those stupid individuals who foolishly put themselves in bad situations. Even if the former were not vicious, nevertheless the latter is vicious, and obviously so: it involves a cruel and ruthless sort of pleasure. And I believe troy, the earlier commenter who defended "Social Darwinism", endorsed both the former and the latter.

    (Troy wrote: "Stupidity should be painful, or, if necessary, deadly." Of course, I should be charitable in interpreting his words. I suspect he did not intend to say that we the enlightened should take active steps to inflict suffering and death upon the stupid. But he did seem to say that we the enlightened should take pleasure in the misfortune of those stupid individuals who foolishly put themselves in bad situations: "I would love that meth be perfectly legal and then watch some idiots explode their brains or heart. Good, I say. Take those stupid genes out of the gene pool.")

    Relatedly, it is probably worth pointing out that not all cruelty involves cruel actions towards others. After all, cruelty is primarily a vicious state of character, and those with a cruel heart might pray for misfortune to befall those they hate or despise without ever lifting a finger to inflict harm on them.

    But I think a specific example might bring focus to the disagreement. Consider an adult literacy program where volunteers spend their free time to help illiterate adults learn how to read. The "Social Darwinist" says that this illiterate-coddling is counterproductive and that the illiterates should be left to their own devices, where hopefully they will meet with suffering and death, and thus their malignant genes will eventually disappear from the population. I say that it is cruel to hope for the illiterates to suffer and die, that it is outrageous (in some sense inhuman) to be more concerned with the overall genetic profile of the human population than with living breathing individuals, and that it is downright pathological to be so filled with contempt for adult illiterates that you have no compassion for the hardships they face and no inclination to help them improve their life -- not to mention that it is an erroneous piece of genetic determinism to think that the intellectual profile of the human population is better served by leaving the stupid to die out than by developing social practices that help the stupid become less stupid.

    At this point you enter the conversation and say that there is nothing vicious in leaving the illiterates to their own devices--i.e., in refusing to participate in the adult literacy program. I will admit that there is nothing outright unjust about refusing to help, and you do not violate the rights of the illiterates when you stay home and sneer at their efforts. But injustice is not the only form of vice. There is also selfishness, mean-spiritedness, spite, pettiness, callousness, and a million other forms of ungenerous narrowness of spirit.

    I trust that none of this is particularly controversial, in Western civilization or in Africa or the Muslim World or the Far East. When you teach children right from wrong, you don't just insist that they respect others' rights and obey the rules of justice and fair dealing. You also bring them to appreciate the value of helping others in need and giving people the benefit of the doubt and having compassion for their problems, even if (especially if!) they come off as stupid and ugly and pathetic. And it's this moral common sense, I think, that so-called "Social Darwinism" fails to come to terms with.

  • Phillip Conti||

    I dont think anyone "takes pleasure" in the suffering of others so much as they use inflammatory rhetoric to counter balance the patent infantilism that is the modern nation state.
    As far as the notion that it is a vice to not help adults to read, I am not going to explain the benefits of selfishness here. Almost everyone who I have ever met who dedicated their lives to "helping others" was a failure.

  • ||

    Phillip Conti wrote:
    I dont think anyone "takes pleasure" in the suffering of others so much as they use inflammatory rhetoric to counter balance the patent infantilism that is the modern nation state.

    As far as the notion that it is a vice to not help adults to read, I am not going to explain the benefits of selfishness here. Almost everyone who I have ever met who dedicated their lives to "helping others" was a failure.


    I suspect that you are right about the use of rhetoric. Of course, self-proclaimed "Social Darwinists" can have a mean streak that enables them to view the suffering of others with a measure of indifference and complacency. But I doubt many are honestly against helping others, simply because sociopaths make up a very small percentage of the population.

    And you might also be right about those who self-consciously dedicate their lives to helping others. After all, a truly good person needs to have a healthy concern for their own personal well-being, and one's concern for others should mainly be a direct concern for those people and their well-being rather than a concern for "helping others" in the abstract. And of course there is no strong reason for volunteering with an adult literacy program in particular, as opposed to an animal shelter or a battered women shelter, or donating money to Oxfam, or any of a million other good things one can do to help others.

    But if you think for a second that it is morally healthy to have zero concern for other people, you're out to lunch.

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