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FDA Cracks Down On “Street Drug Alternatives”
Cognitive Liberty Group calls it a
"Chilling Extension of the War on Drugs”

Washington -- The Food and Drug Administration has sent warning letters to eight companies that sell herbal products, threatening to seize the products because the companies are marketing them as legal alternatives to illegal street drugs.

According to the FDA, an investigation of the companies’ Web sites revealed that the products were for “‘recreational’ purposes – i.e., to affect the mental or psychological states of those taking the products.” An FDA press release on the enforcement action states that the products were “marketed under a variety of names with labeling that claims or implies that they produce such effects as euphoria, a ‘high,’ altered consciousness, or hallucinations.” (FDA March 31 Press Release: http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/news/2003/new00889.html)

The Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics, a civil rights group focused on freedom of thought, sees the FDA action as a chilling extension of the government’s “war on drugs” because it is now going after legal herbs if they are sold with information suggesting that they might alter consciousness or act as legal alternatives to illegal drugs. The group also argues that the FDA action violates free speech because the agency is attempting to prohibit herb sellers from telling the public that a given herb may produce euphoric effects, or have effects similar to those produced by an illegal drug.

According to Richard Glen Boire, legal counsel for the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics, “the FDA’s action is far more about politics than public health.”

“If the government is concerned about people using illegal drugs, then it should welcome the use of legal herbal alternatives. But, this action shows that the “war on drugs” has very little to do with health or public safety, and lots to do with enforcing a government mandated mode of consciousness. The government has no authority to construct public policy around authorizing certain states of consciousness and prohibiting others,” says Boire.

According to Julie Ruiz-Sierra, another attorney at the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics, the FDA’s action may also raise First Amendment concerns. “Unlike illegal drugs, the herbs and herbal formulas targeted here,“ she says, “are all legal. FDA’s action is like saying that because prostitution is a crime, you can’t have sex.”

The Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics is considering legal action against the FDA.

See Also:

FDA Federal Register Notice on "Street Drug Alternatives"