(SacBee) “Eighty-eight-year-old retired metallurgist Bob Wallace is a self-described tinkerer, but he hardly thinks of himself as the Thomas Edison of the illegal drug world. He has nothing to hide. His product is packaged by hand in a cluttered Saratoga garage. It’s stored in a garden shed in the backyard. The whole operation is guarded by an aged, congenial dog named Buddy.”
“But federal and state drug enforcement agents are coming down hard on Wallace’s humble homemade solution he concocted to help backpackers purify water. Wallace says federal and state agents have effectively put him out of business, because authorities won’t clear the way for him to buy or sell the iodine [now apparently an illegal substance used for meth production] he needs for his purification bottles. Rejected for a state permit by the Department of Justice, he is scheduled to appeal his case before an administrative judge in Sacramento next month.”
“Meanwhile, the exasperated Stanford-educated engineer and his 85-year-old girlfriend said the government – in its zeal to clamp down on meth labs – has instead stopped hikers, flood victims and others from protecting themselves against getting a really bad case of the runs.”
“.. But about four years ago, the DEA began to look closely into the product, even citing it in a position paper, and suggesting that it was being used by cranksters as well as campers. And in 2007, federal regulations were passed strictly regulating the chemical. Wallace said the new rules mandated that he had to pay a $1,200 regulatory fee, get federal and state permits, keep track of exactly who was buying his product and report anybody suspicious [for purchasing a self-purifying water bottle!].”
“Wallace ignored the fee. And if they wanted a list of his customers, he fumed, all they would get would be camping equipment store managers and wholesalers.”
“In May, his Oklahoma distributor – warned by the DEA – said he could no longer send Wallace iodine. .. For Wallace to comply, the state Department of Justice fingerprinted the couple and told Wallace he needed to show them such things as a solid security system for his product [for selling a self-purifying water bottle!]. Wallace sent a photograph of Buddy sitting on the front porch. ‘These guys don’t go for my humor,’ Wallace said. ‘Cops are the most humorless knotheads on the planet.’ ”
Now granted, I understand that methamphetamines are terribly destructive (though ironically they were once legal and openly provided to soldiers by the military to help them “keep on going”). But how does imposing such outrageous regulatory restrictions on a small business (with products built in the back of someone’s garage) that sought only to help people have greater access to cheap, safe and clean drinking water, help anyone? I also understand that Brita and others may do quite a bit of lobbying (especially in California), so there’s also the possibility that some companies didn’t appreciate competition from an inexpensive self-purifying water bottle without consumables and sought to have action taken against it. And while here’s another small business destroyed, I’m sure meth labs have already secured an alternative source of iodine to continue creating their wares. Not sure how hard it would be to extract iodine from everyday table salt, but hopefully that’s not the DEA’s next target… And maybe the government can start going after some of the real thieving crooks out there like Jon Corzine and other members of the criminal banking elite who have probably turned more people towards drugs in the past few years alone than did all of Vietnam and Woodstock.