A Whiff of Grape


The January issue of Microgram, a bulletin published by the Drug Enforcement Administration's Office of Forensic Sciences, includes a brief report on what may be the first official smelling of "candy-flavored meth" (emphasis added):

The DEA Western Laboratory (San Francisco, California) recently received a ziplock plastic bag containing a mixture of translucent crystals and tiny purple specks that had a distinct grape candy-like odor, purported to be "flavored methamphetamine" (see Photo 1). The exhibit was acquired by DEA Special Agents in Everett, Washington. Analysis of the exhibit (total net mass 26.7 grams) by FTIR, GC/MS, GC/IRD, and HPLC confirmed 1.1% methamphetamine (salt form undetermined), diluted with dimethylsulfone and sucrose; the sample appeared to be mostly dimethylsulfone, based on the FTIR spectrum. It is possible that the tiny purple specks in the exhibit were bits of a grape flavored candy or lollipop, but this was not formally determined. This is the first such submission to the Western Laboratory.

[Editor's Notes: "Flavored methamphetamine" (most notably "strawberry meth") has received extensive and often alarmist coverage in the mass media over the past two years. However, this is the first confirmed sample of "flavored methamphetamine" submitted to a DEA laboratory, and is also the first such report by any laboratory to Microgram. A small number of exhibits with unusual colors have been submitted to the South Central Laboratory (Dallas, Texas) over the past two years; however, none of the latter samples had any noticeable fruit or candy-like odors.]

How over the top does coverage of a drug story have to be for the DEA to call it "alarmist"? Very. Note that the coverage of "candy-colored meth" preceded any confirmation that it actually existed, and that the brightly colored, strawberry-flavored crystals featured in the scare stories bear little resemblance to this sample. Microgram's editor tactfully refrained from noting that the alarmism has been shared and passed on by two U.S. senators, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), whose "candy-flavored meth bill" would automatically double the sentence of anyone who "manufactures, creates, distributes, or possesses with intent to distribute a controlled substance that is flavored, colored, packaged or otherwise altered in a way that is designed to make it more appealing to a person under 21 years of age, or who attempts or conspires to do so." The upshot is that someone who sells meth sprinkled with bits of grape candy to an adult would be treated as if he had sold it to a child. Purveyors of hash brownies, MDMA tablets stamped with cartoons, or any other drug whose form, packaging, or marketing is deemed child-friendly likewise could see their sentences arbitrarily increased. All because Feinstein and Grassley are under the impression that people smoke meth because they like the way it tastes.

My previous post on the Feinstein/Grassley bill is here. Michael Erard told the story of how Microgram became available online in the October 2004 issue of Reason.

[via To the People]