Half Baked

Crack cocaine is a controlled narcotic (basically, an illegal drug) in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and most other places which have anti-drug laws.  Crack is the most addictive form of cocaine as, according to the Cleveland Clinic, it “reaches the brain more rapidly and in higher doses than when [cocaine is] taken as a powder.”  It’s also cheaper than pure cocaine, because the effect is stronger even though the amount of coke in each hit is the same (and because fears of impurities may drive down the price).  But it is based on cocaine — a controlled, odorless, white powder like the stuff pictured above.

The image above is not of cocaine.  It is of the other ingredient needed to make crack — sodium bicarbonate, or, more commonly, baking soda. Baking soda, of course, is not a controlled substance — one can buy it for about four dollars virtually anywhere, including virtually.  But in 2007, a Missouri lawmaker wanted to fix this “problem.”

In 2006, the U.S. enacted the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act, which regulated the sale of previously over-the-counter drugs such as pseudoephedrine (formerly the active ingredient in Sudafed) and others which could be used to make methamphetamines.  The next year, Missouri State Representative Talibdin El Amin proposed that baking soda be treated similarly — at least in Missouri.  The law he proposed failed, but it would have required that baking soda be placed behind the pharmacy counter, and only made be available upon request.

Regardless of what one thinks of the War on Drugs, Mr. El Amin’s strategy was uncommonly silly. The city he represented, St. Louis, borders the state of Illinois — which, of course, would not be subject to Missouri’s anti-baking soda statute. One needn’t be a hardened criminal to realize that legal, unrestricted baking soda was merely a five minute drive away.

But if having a felony on one’s rap sheet is required to understand this, well, Mr. El Amin has that covered, too. In 2009, he resigned from the Missouri Congress and pled guilty to federal bribery charges for allegedly soliciting and requesting just over $2,000 from a St. Louis gas station operator in exchange for smoothing over untold things with city officials.

In January of 2010, Mr. El Amin was sentenced to 18 months in prison for his crime.

Bonus fact: You can overdose on baking soda — if you drink a lot of it. (Note that few if any typical uses of baking soda involve drinking it.)

From the ArchivesLicense to Toke: Some illicit drugs are not so illicit — if you’re in the right government program.

Related: “Baking Soda: Over 500 Fabulous, Fun, and Frugal Uses You’ve Probably Never Thought Of ” by Vicki Lansky. 4.5 stars on 35 reviews. A search on the terms “cocaine” and “crack” using Amazon’s “Look Inside!” feature results in only one hit: “Sprinkle baking soda inside the dishwasher before you leave on vacation.  Leave your machine open just a crack and you won’t come home to musty smells!”

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