Let the buyer beware

Welcome to this week’s Reno News & Review.

I rarely use this column to explain my own writing, but I’m feeling a little creeped out by this week’s cover story, and I think some of the themes are subtle for newsprint.

First, I consider myself a sophisticated member of our society. I had a well misspent youth, and I went down a lot of dark alleys. So my arrogance is, since I’ve seen it all, I know a lot, and if my friends or my child starts going down a dangerous path, I’d like to think I’d recognize it. This story convinced me that is not true. I didn’t even know the words. Salvia? Bath salts? Spice? I could have been sitting with a group of teenagers, and if they were discussing Pep or Genie or Halo or K2, I’d have no idea what they were talking about. I’m not a big “we must save the children by limiting adults’ fun” type, but I should at least recognize the words. And so should those other parents who grew up in the ’70s and ’80s.

The second thing that may be lost is that we live in a drug-fueled society. I have no more reason to believe that sugar-free Rockstar or Centrum Silver are safe than I have reason to believe that bath salts will hurt me. There is no government agency to check the potency or claims “supplement” manufacturers make. There’s no way anyone can say any of these products are adequately regulated. And since these drugs are mostly used off-label, they don’t even have to meet minimum safety standards. It wouldn’t matter if they were regulated. The government frequently OKs drugs that have death as a possible side effect.

I hate the hypocrisy that says store owners must pretend they don’t know what these products are really used for and so can’t give advice. I spoke to two who had moral issues with salvia and yet sell it because the demand is unrelenting. I hate the hypocrisy that says tobacco and alcohol are OK, but marijuana—over which you can have absolute ingredient control by growing it yourself—is not.