The Unrepentant Individual

...just hanging around until Dec 21, 2012

October 5, 2007

Note To Police — I Brew Beer, Not Meth

Sadly, with a new Texas law, I suspect they’re worried about the latter when I do something innocuous such as purchasing an Erlenmeyer flask… From Wikipedia:

Like many other common pieces of glassware, Erlenmeyer flasks could potentially be used in the production of illegal narcotics. In an effort to restrict such production, some U.S. states (including Texas) have begun requiring permits to purchase such glassware, including Erlenmeyer flasks, as well as chemicals identified as common starting materials.

When I make beer, often neighbors will come by and inquire about what’s going on… As a jest, I often will reply “meth lab”, just to see how they react, before explaining far more about the processes of brewing beer than they ever wanted to know. It really is like a chemistry set, with flasks, burners, glass fermentation vessels, yeast which comes in containers resembling test tubes, etc. I personally have a very nice 2L Erlenmeyer flask, and often find myself having to drive from my house to my brother-in-law’s place for brew day with the flask full of a yeast starter. Thankfully, I’ve never been stopped by the cops; I have to think that would be tough to explain!

Not long ago, I was at a tradeshow with a coworker visiting from Taiwan. We got on the subject of beer, and he asked me “do you need a permit to brew beer?” Of course not, I told him, as long as you’re not trying to sell it you don’t need any permit at all. I guess in Texas, you don’t need a permit to brew beer, just to buy some of the equipment used in brewing beer. I guess we’ve officially kissed the whole presumption of innocence thing goodbye.

Of course, some of you will say that this is just a silly law, and that in the long run won’t hurt anyone. But as he often does, Radley Balko will prove you wrong:

Ariel Alonso and Jonathan Conrad were two lonely men who developed an interest in alchemy. After meeting on the Internet, the two men shared a home in Henry, Virginia, where they practiced amateur chemistry, producing various elixirs that they then sold on their website. Cooky? Sure. But not criminal. Conrad, in his 50s, was into alternative medicine, and generated most of the income from the venture. Alonso, in his 70s, was bit more eccentric — he dabbled in metallurgy. The two had invested thousands of dollars in the lab, but were able to make a decent living from their web business.

On October 13, 2003, local authorities paid a visit to the home, where they saw the men’s chemistry equipment, and (naturally) immediately suspected a methamphetamine lab. For reasons still unclear, a “field test” tested positve (there seem to be lots of false positives with these narcotics field tests). The DEA would later admit that test was only “equivocally” positive.

So later the same day, DEA agents raided the men’s home. The raiding officers devastated the lab, shattering thousands of dollars in equipment, and arrested the men on charges of manufacturing methamphetamine. The two spent 18 days in jail.

Unfortunately for the drug cops, more extensive lab tests later revealed no sign of methamphetamine, nor of any of the chemicals used to make it. In fact, there were no signs of any illicit substances at all. The two men were released.

As Radley goes on to point out, the two men were never compensated for the equipment that was destroyed, and both were financially ruined by the encounter. And all they’ve done was use some equipment specialized to their profession, but a bit too uncommon for a normal household.

So a note to all the authorities. I make beer, not meth. If you come to my house and see strange equipment that you don’t understand, I’ll spend all day (and night) talking your ear off about beer until you’re quite convinced that I’m telling the truth. And my wife will probably thank you, because that will mean I’m not talking to her about beer.

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 8:57 am || Permalink || Comments (1) || Trackback URL || Categories: Beer, Libertarianism, News

1 Comment

  1. I still have a couple of erlenmeyer flasks I swiped from the Purdue chem labs a decade ago. I’ll send ‘em to you if you want…

    Comment by Sober John — October 5, 2007 @ 9:58 am

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