Drug Policy

Beakers and Tweakers

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Wulf at AtlasBlogged discovers that the state of Texas requires you to get a permit before buying innocuous chemistry equipment like Erlenmeyer flasks, because said equipment could conceivably be used to make "the drugs."

Sure enough, the website of chemistry supplier CR-Scientific includes this passage:

We have recently become aware that Texas has some kind of "drug precursor" law or regulation which requires a permit to own boiling flasks, erlenmeyer flasks, distilling apparati, and the like. The permit is administered by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS).

While I personally believe this regulation is misguided at best, we cannot advise anyone to break the law. Texas residents, please contact your state representatives and tell them that the regulation is harmful to honest citizens and should be repealed. Please also contact members of the US Senate and House to prevent this kind of regulation from surfacing elsewhere. We don't normally get involved in political causes, but this one bears directly upon many of our customers who practice home schooling and amateur science. The glassware regulation is an example of well-meaning but misguided legislation that simply goes too far.

In jest, Wulf implores his readers to "contact Radley Balko!" should a SWAT team tear down his door for possession of improperly-permitted lab equipment.

The thing is—and you know what's coming here, don't you?—yes, that has actually happened.

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  1. I learned a lot from my old chemcraft set when I was a kid, along with my Radio Shack breadboard, microscope, telescope, etc. If the US wants to excel in the sciences, how does this help?

  2. too funny

  3. that SWAT raid is one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard. What’s next, busting up university chem labs because of all the dastardly science-y stuff?

  4. “””In gest, Wulf implores his readers to “contact Radley Balko!” should a SWAT team tear down his door for possession of improperly-permitted lab equipment. “”””

    Nice.

    I had a chemistry set when I was a kid too. I didn’t do anything with a breadboard but I did put some of those Radio Shack kits together.

    Some in the US may want science to excel but our government seems too stupid to allow it. Science is evil.

  5. I’m waiting for the day when I have to start showing ID and have my purchae recorded in a government log when I buy plastic sandwich bags, since they could potentially be used to package drugs for sale. I’m figuring it’ll happen by 2009.

  6. People in Texas also hate science, so this kind of makes sense. Kill two birds with one stone.

  7. My chemistry set I had as a teenager would require a license in Texas? Wow!
    The war on sanity continues unabated.

  8. Just tried to post this on Radley’s site at the entry about DEA busting up the alchemists’ lab, but comments are not allowed on that entry, so I’ll ask it here:

    One quick question: there are some strange numbers in this post. The final paragraph has Conrad dying in September 2004, a month before the October 2004 raid that contributed to his problems (although the lead paragraph says that raid was in October 2003). Not sure what the dates are here, but at least one of the three is wrong. I suspect this all happened in October 2003 and that the 2004 is a typo, and that Conrad died in September 2004. Can you clarify the dates?

  9. Wulf ends with:
    We must ban high school chemistry. For the children.

    nice

  10. No microscope for the kids. I’m thinking of getting rid of the 10″ Dobsonian reflector, too, since it looks like a cannon in the dark. Don’t want to get the family strafed while looking at the Pleiades one night.

  11. Austin is fighting with Washington and Caracas for the most retarded ideas to come out of one city.

  12. “No, really, its just a flower vase” says the man on the floor with a boot on his neck and a semi-auto pointed at his temple.

  13. I bought an Erlenmeyer flask two weeks ago in Austin. In person. In a store only a couple of miles from Texas DPS headquarters. I was not required to sign a register nor obtain a permit.

    Should I expect the Man to come bursting through the door?

    Nigel,
    These particular idiotic ideas don’t come from Austin, they’re just collected here. The idiotic ideas that come from Austin are usually of the left-loony variety.

  14. Austin is fighting with Washington and Caracas for the most retarded ideas to come out of one city.

    Personally, I love a competitive pennant race.

  15. Wasn’t the guy who first spotted the hole in the ozone a Texan?

  16. Given how many times Welch Hall (the chemistry building) got set on fire when I was at UT, maybe the law was passed as a fire safety measure.

    Scooby,
    You should expect that any minute now. It’s only what you deserve, you drug making miscreant. Besides, APD doesn’t have anything better to do, do they? You wouldn’t want all that shiny SWAT equipment paid for with your tax dollars to go unused, would you? Of course not! That would be pointless and wasteful! So accept that tactical entry as the price you pay to combat government wasting your tax money.

  17. “In gest, Wulf implores . . .” should be “in jest.”

  18. “No, really, its just a name tag with blinky lights.” says the MIT student at the airport to pick up her boyfriend (with a boot on her neck and a semi-auto pointed at her temple).

  19. It’s only what you deserve, you drug making miscreant.

    That characterization is basically true. The flask is for culturing yeast starters, for making sugar into demon alcohol.

    And, yes, I miss the days of seeing the fire trucks pass by on their way to Welch Hall.
    Seemed like a semiweekly occurrence.

  20. Oh well, I won’t miss the bathroom scale so much. But my measuring cups from Pampered Chef they will have to pry from my cold, dead hands.

  21. what’s with this whole thing about not compensating victims of botched raids, even for property damage? I have a feeling it’s from a lingering sentiment that the people are in fact guilty of something, and therefore should be thankful they’re not going to jail. Or rather, that they’ve somehow brought this on themselves.
    Otherwise, why isn’t the public more outraged about this seemingly common detail of botched raids/wrongful seizures of property?

  22. When erlenmeyer flasks are outlawed, only outlaws will have erlenmeyer flasks.

    It does remind me of undergrad Organic chemlab…turning the glassware kit back in at semester’s end and asking if I could let them keep my breakage deposit if I could keep the distillation sleeve…mmmm…pure grain. They said no. I learned then not to ask permission. I can now envision college students faking breakage to sell glass on the black market in Texas.

  23. Dayum saahn-tists, a-comin’ down hyar, trahn’ ta change ah way o’ lahf!

  24. Just remember, Scooby, if you engage in distillation, there’s a tax to be paid. Don’t want BATFE coming in with DPS, do you?

    Yeah, I loved getting to that part of campus and detouring around the fire trucks and caution tape. Just as fun was the time the nitrogen tank behind Welch sprang a leak. Only time I saw snow in Austin, albeit in a very small area.

  25. Almost as silly as me needing to show that I was over 18 to purchase some Zippo flints. The person at the register began the following conversion:

    “That wasn’t so bad, was it?”

    To which I responded, “Actually, it’s pretty freaking idiotic.”

    “Well, with those you could…”

    “Do absolutely nothing. They’re flints. They make sparks when they hit steel.”

    But I’m sure it’s for the children…

    Nephilium

  26. I have said it before, it should be called “The Peoples Republic of Texas”.

  27. Just remember, Scooby, if you engage in distillation, there’s a tax to be paid.

    To all the revenue agents out there: no distillation is involved. I’m just exercising my Jimmy Carter-given right to brew up to 200 gallons per person per annum of non-distilled beer.

  28. why isn’t the public more outraged about this seemingly common detail of botched raids/wrongful seizures of property?

    Because “it was an honest mistake” and “stricter laws would only defend criminals” and “it can’t happen to me”. The public are idiots.

  29. Mr. Reinmoose,
    what’s with this whole thing about not compensating victims of botched raids, even for property damage?

    That would require someone, somewhere, admitting to a mistake. Never gonna happen…

    CoaC

  30. Reinmoose, Wulf, CoaC, re – public apathy to raids

    Also, keep in mind that most people only hear about individual raids that take place in their community (if they even hear about those). We read Reason, and Balko’s posts, but for the most part, people don’t hear about these raids on a daily basis like we do, so the “isolated incident” joke gets taken seriously.

  31. I’m just exercising my Jimmy Carter-given right to brew up to 200 gallons per person per annum of non-distilled beer.

    100 gallons per adult, up to 200 per household.

  32. Oh, and the right to homebrew comes from our creator, Carter just made it legal.

  33. thinking*mmm. christ whiz. mmmm. cheddar flavor…

  34. robc,
    I keep forgetting I have Carter to thank for that small, but useful, rollback of the regulatory police state. Maybe I’m just too wedded to my opinion of Jimmuh as a shining beacon of incompetence to admit to myself he did anything right.

  35. Not really funny. I probably have enough scary stuff in my apartment to get raided like this. With enough psycho legislation and bad luck, that is.

  36. Jimmeh wasn’t a great president, but he was a good example of a born again Southern Baptist that didn’t feel particularly compelled to force his personal religious practices (i.e., teetotalling) on others. Better than I can say for several others that have held that office.

    I haven’t personally come close to exceeding the annual limit (whether it’s 200 gal per person, or utilizing my beloved’s allowance for the 200 gal per household total), so I wasn’t up on the specifics. It does sound like a worthwhile goal for the future.

    Mmmm, 200 gallons of beer. That’s almost a six pack for every day of the year.

  37. Ive never come close to my 100 gallon limit. I think 60 has been my max.

    The other day I came up with the idea for the Southern Baptist Homebrewers Association (meetings are tough, since two members will never show up, but I dont like meetings anyway). As the original member, I decree Jimmy Carter to be our Founding Father.

  38. I was living in Austin, Texas when the Texas War on Drugs Committee was set up under Ross Perot, with a $645,000 grant from the state government.

    They used taxpayers money to lobby for new laws like the one about scientific equipment. They also passed a law requiring all prescriptions be filled out in triplicate, with two copies going to the state for a permanent database. The database was managed by Perot’s company.

  39. I keep forgetting I have Carter to thank for that small, but useful, rollback of the regulatory police state. Maybe I’m just too wedded to my opinion of Jimmuh as a shining beacon of incompetence to admit to myself he did anything right.

    Well, he deregulated the airlines too… whatever his faults he ranks far above the current occupant in any assessment based on freedom/liberty measures.

    As for the botched raid Balko refers to, it is truly a horribly sad story to read. It is disgusting enough that policy allows those DEA thugs to destroy a person’s livelihood with no need for any compensation. It reaches far beyond disgusting that those individual DEA goons can do such a thing and look themselves in the mirror every morning without feeling the need to personally step up and help those they’ve wrongly victimized. There is simply no civilized way to express the outrage any decent human ought to feel over the never-ending litany of such stories. Just more evidence (as if any is needed) that law enforcement agencies are universally populated with some of the worst of humanity. I still await indisputable evidence of this mythical “good cop” that so many boot-licking police apologists claim exists.

  40. I ran afoul of the same law when I wanted to purchase glassware for use in an antenna experiment. If you read the fine print of the law, you’ll see it also requires state approval to buy “transformers.” The framers of the law, no doubt, were thinking of the auto-transformers used to control a heating coil in distillation. As written though, since virtually all electronic equipment includes transformers, everyone in Texas without the appropriate license is a criminal. Makes me glad I’ve moved out of state.

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