By: Jack Thorndike, NARK News, Vol.2
One of the most common questions I’m asked concerning the new “Bath Salt” field tests is what kind of independent testing did they undergo before being offered to the law enforcement community?
Sirchie® prides itself in only offering presumptive field tests that meet both the stringent standards of the National Institute of Justice color test (NIJ standard: www.nij.gov/pubssum/183258.htm ) and scrutiny of independent government testing.
The Commonwealth of Virginia requires that all narcotic field tests being offered to law enforcement to confirm probable cause and bind through preliminary must have previously been approved by the Virginia Division of Forensic Science. (Regulations for the Approval of Field Tests for the Detection of Drugs - 6 VAC 20 - 220)
All of the standard field tests in both the tube and pouch configuration have all been approved through this process. Both the MDPV/Methylone Reagent (#NAR10024 –tube and #NARK20024 – pouch) and
Mephedrone Reagent (#NAR10025 –tube and #NARK20025 – pouch) have also been approved in 2011.
This now raises the issue of what probable cause do you have to suspect the substance being seized is potentially a synthetic stimulant (bath salts)?
• How is the substance packaged?
• Was it offered for sale as bath salts?
• What quantity of substance is being seized?
• Is the person suspected a known drug user or dealer?
• What does the substance look like?
Let’s now consider two (2) sets of circumstances and determine whether or not both of these cases meet the standard of probable cause.
Case #1: Through circumstances, a teenager agrees to be searched. In his pocket is a foil package labeled as “Ivory Wave” which reports to contain 1 gram of substance. Examining the substance itself, it is an off white powder.
Case #2: Through circumstances, a teenage agrees to be searched. In his pocket is a plastic baggie containing approximately 30 grams of a white powdery substance.
Even though circumstances allowed the officer to search the teenagers in both cases, their discoveries were drastically different. The 1st case is clearly leading the officer to suspect “bath salts” and would start his testing with the MDPV/Methylone Reagent.
In case #2, we have something drastically wrong. In most cases, the sale of 1 gram of suspected “bath salts” would run as high as $60.00. This means the teenager is carrying a value of $1800.00 of loose powder which potentially could be “bath salts”. Does that make sense? If this teenager were a dealer, his customers want to see the substance sold in a recognizable package or with recognizable markings.
In this case, the officer should be very wary of what he has seized.
Let’s now assume when the field tests were conducted, both cases were positive results in the #NARK20024 MDPV/Methylone Reagent. What would you do?
I would suggest that in Case #1, considering all the facts including the positive result of the field test,
there is clearly sufficient reasonable belief to establish probable cause to bind the suspect through preliminary hearing. However, in Case #2, even with a positive result I would be very wary of processing this case. Ask more questions and see whether or not there is a reasonable explanation for why this
teenager had the loose powder. Can his explanation be verified? If so, verify the explanation before proceeding.
What is a gram?
Investigators dealing in narcotics all the time have little difficulty in visualizing one (1) gram of substance. Those not dealing in dope regularly struggle with this concept. Take an everyday product we see, “Sweet ‘n Low”, and dump the whole package in front of you. You are now looking at one (1) gram of powder.
“Bath Salts” are sold in ¼, ½ and 1 gram packages. Relate that to the two cases presented above. Just one more piece of evidence that the zip lock bag containing a large volume of powder should be looked at with extreme caution.
In law enforcement we have long taken the results of field tests like Duquenois-Levine (Marijuana); Scott
Reagent Modified (Cocaine); and Mecke’s Reagent (Heroin) for granted. However, we must remember that all of these substances are “natural” products that originated from a plant. When legislation was enacted for these substances, they could be simply identified as THC, Cocaine and Opiates respectively. Since they are “natural” substances, they could not be changed to new formulations or new substances.
Now we have these synthetics. Even though the DEA emergency schedule recognizes the three (3) substances of MDPV, Methylone and Mephedrone, we also must recognize that you can “tweak” those substances into various analogs of the original formulas.
===> Bath Salts Test Reagent <===
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