November 2012 Archives

California Health and Safety Code Section 11375.5 Make Sale of Bath Salts Misdemeanor

November 25, 2012,

The LA Times reported that Los Angeles County health officials have issued yet another warning regarding the dangers of using recently popularized designer drug, bath salts. The warning follows a newly-published study recording a drastic increase in the amount of calls poison control centers related to the drug.

According to the study, over the last few years, U.S. poison control centers have experienced a pronounced increase in calls related to bath salts, increasing from none in 2009 to 6,138 in 2011. Bath salts, sometimes referred to as white lightning, white rush, or Hurricane Charlie, have been linked to a number unusual incidents and arrests, likely due to the drug's tendency to cause hallucinations, paranoia and uncontrollable violent behavior.

In July, President Obama signed into law the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act, which included an amendment designating two chemicals commonly found in bath salts, Mephedrone and MDPV, as FDA-controlled substances. The law also banned the sale of bath salts in smoke shops and gas stations, but the drug remains available through online sources.

California recently enacted a law making it a misdemeanor offense to sell or distribute any "synthetic stimulant derivative" under Health and Safety Code section 11375.5, which provides: Every person who sells, dispenses, distributes, furnishes, administers, or gives, or offers to sell, dispense, distribute, furnish, administer, or give, any synthetic stimulant compound specified in subdivision (b), or any synthetic stimulant derivative, to any person, or who possesses that compound or derivative for sale, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding six months, or by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment.

Despite the ban on their sale, possession of bath salts in California is not yet a crime. Although not itself criminal, the use of bath salts leading to the commission of violent crimes is well documented. Indeed, it appears that, in many such situations, individuals with no prior criminal tendencies or propensity towards violence have committed serious felonies while under the influence of the drug.

Another problem with the recent uptick in the use of bath salts is that, because they are often manufactured by "street chemists," they are unregulated and not subject to the safety measures of legitimate drug manufacturers. This means that there is no way to determine what chemicals and how much of any given chemical a given amount of bath salts contains, putting users at increased risk of poisoning and overdose.

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California White Collar Fraud Cases Connected to Recycling

November 6, 2012,

The Los Angeles Times published a story regarding the recent struggles of California's recycling program due to widespread fraud. According to the story, individuals are taking advantage of the state recycling program by redeeming aluminum cans and glass bottles from other states, usually neighboring Nevada or Arizona, at California recycling centers. California government officials have estimated the fraud to cost the state somewhere between $40 and $200 million a year.

Under its recycling law, California consumers are charged a deposit on some beverage containers sold in the state. Any person who brings a recyclable container to one of the state's 2,300 privately run recycling centers will be paid anywhere from 5 to 10 cents depending on the type of the container. Further, only containers sold in the state are eligible for recycling. However, because the state reimburses the private recycling centers based the amount of recyclables taken in by weight, the centers have little incentive to curb any fraud.

The fraud being perpetrated on California's recycling system is stark when looked at by the numbers. According to estimates, 8.3 billion recyclable cans were redeemed in California in 2011, a year when only 8.5 billon cans were sold. This is a return rate of almost 98%--a highly unlikely rate of success. The rate of return for plastic containers was 104%, which is obviously an impossibility.

The California Department of Justice has stated that approximately 10 criminal cases have been filed this year against fraud rings bringing in recyclables from outside California. California's Beverage Container Recycling Act prohibits "redemption of beverage container material imported from out of state, previously redeemed containers [and] rejected containers." It also states "any person participating in conduct intended to defraud the state's beverage container recycling program shall be held accountable for that conduct."

Under section 14591(b)(1)(D) of the California Public Resources Code, any person who "with intent to defraud***[r]edeems out-of-state containers, rejected containers, line breakage, or containers that have already been redeemed" or "[b]rings out-of-state containers, rejected containers, or line breakage to the marketplace for redemption" is guilty of fraud. Further, if the money obtained from the fraud exceeds $950, it is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for up to a year or up to three years in a state prison. If the money obtained from the fraud is equal to or less than $950, it is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for up to six months.

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