This footage was prepared recently by a citizen-journalist / advocate in Vancouver. Contrary to what one might think, it’s a pretty good PSA for crack addicts wanting to manage their addiction … and it’s apparently legal, too.
When it comes to drug legalization, there are a few approaches. Harm reduction, for example, makes the argument that the purpose of public policy is to reduce harm, and that any policy that creates more problems than it solves isn’t actually successful. There’s decriminalization, which is essentially driven by voter initiative. There’s rescheduling, which seeks to alter the definition of a drug so that it no longer meets certain criteria for enforcement. There’s the medicinal movement, which seeks to alter access to certain drugs on the basis of their beneficial qualities. One of the features that all of these techniques share is that they directly address currently illegal drugs, and attempt to directly argue that these drugs should not be illegal.
…and then there’s this guy from Vancouver, who has created a Jonathan Swift-esque Modest Proposal, of sorts. Essentially, our Vancouver Videographer has created a tutorial that illustrates how to take plain coffee, combine it with a household cleanser, and end up with a super-pure, smokable form of caffeine. Essentially, his challenge to policymakers is this: criminalize coffee. Naturally, after coffee is criminalized will inevitably come the next food that can be purified, and so on… This is the argument of absurdity (reductio ad absurdum); how ridiculous could we theoretically make policy before policy has become too absurd to take seriously?
Some people will doubtless be shocked that the Vancouver Videographer suggests selling it on the school playground with the name “black magic,” but he insists that it must be sold with the disclaimer that it is legal to sell. Of course, anyone who is shocked by the suggestion is clearly missing the point of the video. In A Modest Proposal, Swift never advocated for cannibalism, and he would probably have been disgusted if people actually ate the children as a result of his proposal. On the contrary, people ought to be shocked by what is currently criminalized.
Personally, I love this message, but I’m not about to freebase some coffee. I would suggest that a more direct route to smokable caffeine would be to purchase chemically pure caffeine, rather than using the coffee method depicted in the video. I’ve heard that United Nuclear is a good source, but I’ve never purchased from them, and I make no warranties. Although this does have me thinking about some possibilities, let me reiterate: making freebase caffeine isn’t the point of the video.
I’d venture that all anyone really needs to hear are the words “freebase caffeine” and they are less than an hour from actually making it a reality. The knowledge is already out there, and a video tutorial isn’t a necessary step to making your own freebase caffeine. Any process that can be explained in 120 seconds is childishly simple, so it’s not like this video is the groundbreaking source of some “great new technique.”
What is groundbreaking, however, is the suggestion that we could criminalize everything simply by showing how easy it is to transform it into a “scary form.” Hot peppers, for example, are well known for their accompanying endorphin rush – perhaps peppers aren’t too far behind coffee? In fact, someone could just walk down the aisles of a supermarket and identify which products, fruits, and vegetables have any conceivable potential for becoming “scarier.” Why not create an act stipulating that nothing, whatsoever, can be sold in a store unless it has first been confirmed that it could never be made into a scary form?
Because it is absurd.
If it is plain to see why this line of reasoning is absurd, then we need to work backwards to figure out where this absurd line of reasoning began, and then remedy the situation so that it is no longer absurd.
Since there is question about whether or not anyone has ever done this, I submit for your evaluation the following Erowid report:
I recently bought a bottle of ‘stacker 2′ pills. I really like these pills taken orally but I find that the excessive amount of caffeine (200mg) is a bit much for me. It also contains several vitamins, herbs, etc–but most importantly, ma huang extract (standardized 25mg ephedrine). I decided to do what the cigarette companies do to tobacco in order to convert the nicotine salt into a freebase–soak it in ammonia. I opened up one of the capsules onto a glass dish, added 5ml household clear ammonia via medicine dropper, ‘cut’ with razor blade until capsule contents were fully saturated, and let soak for approx. 1 hour. Next, I evaporated the ammonia in the microwave, scraped up sticky goo (light brown in color, almost rubbery but sticky when rolled into a ball), and smoked through my trusty bowl. That was bout two hours ago. Since then, have taken about 7 hits of the pharmaceutical-tasting lump…
Obviously, RTFA. I take two things from this report:
1) the guy lived
2) the caffeine was hard to disambiguate from the ephedrine (which he also freebased).
So, this doesn’t strictly mean it’s safe to do, but there is more that you can read about the topic…