With the resumption of editorials this week after a hiatus, I'd like to take this opportunity to make a small confession to DRCNet readers. In part I was inspired by the resurgence of the hemp issue this week, with DEA's re-filing of regulations to ban the sale and consumption of food products made with non-psychoactive hemp -- pretzels, candy bars, pasta, cooking oil and such -- and the hemp industry's rapid response court action to block the implementation of the illegal rule as they did before (http://www.votehemp.org). My confession revolves around a product that physiologically is equally innocuous to hemp foods, but politically may be more provocative, if less popularized.
I smuggled coca soap into the United States.
I received one of the infamous cleansing bars as a gift, from an attendee at our legalization conference in the Mexican city of Mérida on the Yucatán peninsula last month, "Out from the Shadows: Ending Drug Prohibition in the 21st Century (http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/shadows/). The soap bar was not contraband, at least not at its point of production. Like the soft drink Coca Cola, it was legally produced and distributed by an agency licensed by a government, using coca that was legally grown and supplied to them.
It's possible that, like Coca Cola, the insignificant amount of cocaine contained in the small amount of coca used to make the soap bar had been extracted prior to it going to market. If so, they needn't have bothered -- it's just soap! Even with the cocaine extracted, there's probably more of it remaining in a glass of coca cola you would drink than ended up in my bloodstream each morning after scrubbing my body with the coca soap in the shower. Washing with coca soap didn't make me wired -- just as my usual choice of soap, Dr. Bronner's, which includes hemp oil, doesn't get me stoned. But the company might have had an incentive to extract the cocaine, to sell for use in the legal pharmaceutical supply.
So I'm not really sure if it was illegal to carry my coca soap bar with me into the airports, onto the airplanes, into the glove compartment of my rental car or up to my apartment. Nor, however, can I be sure that technically it wasn't a violation. It was an educational experience to go through customs and observe myself wondering if there was the slightest chance in the world agents could find my bar of soap (identifying label removed), recognize the telltale shade of purple, test it chemically, discover my crime and drag me away in handcuffs or chains. But February 15, 2003 was my lucky night. I endured no search at all on my return, breezed through immigration control, hopped on the van to the long-term parking lot and got away scot-free. Take that, Homeland Security Department.
If anyone reading this is offended by my brazen flaunting of Uncle Sam's dictums, I offer my sincere apology. All I can say is, once or twice in life, everyone has to take a walk on the wild side, right or not. If my transportation or use of coca soap threatened the stability of the social order in any way, I'm certain it posed less risk to myself or others than any number of the President's admitted youthful indiscretions, much less the ones he's never admitted (nor denied). It didn't encourage teen drug use, and it didn't interfere with the war on terrorism, the hoisting of the flag, or the renaming of french fries.
And if anyone in law enforcement reads this and gets any "ideas," you should know: I have no scientific proof that the soap bar I transported actually contained coca or cocaine, and neither do you. For that matter, maybe I just made the whole thing up in order to write an entertaining editorial. The evidence has long since been washed down the drain -- if there ever was any. And, it was my soap, and it's none of your business. If you actually did anything with this, it would be ridiculous. And you didn't go after Jefferson Morley when he published a commentary about trying crack cocaine in the Washington Post, so I could claim selective prosecution.
One day North and South Americans will be free to trade in coca products, free from the fear and paranoia that thrive within the shadows of prohibition and the drug war. In the meantime, coca in the US will remain a rare and forbidden pleasure.