'Born Illegal' -- Exploring the Powerful Advanced Psychedelics Invented by the Father of Ecstasy

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By Charles Shaw, AlterNet
Posted on October 1, 2010, Printed on April 13, 2011

By all accounts Anthony Reed was what you would have called a model citizen. In a very traditional sense, he was a hardworking young man looking at a very bright future. He attended an exclusive boarding school for gifted students, and after posting a near-perfect score on the ACT and a 3.7 GPA at Louisiana Tech University, he found himself wooed by graduate programs across the country. Rather than go straight to grad school, though, Reed felt it was his obligation to volunteer a portion of his most able-bodied years to what he called “the betterment of society.” He applied for an Americorps post and was quickly accepted and dispatched to the Berkshires in Massachusetts to begin work on a conservation project that helped maintain federally protected land.

In mid-April of this year, the 22-year old Reed took a well-deserved break and drove to the Wanee Music Festival in Live Oak, Florida. He brought with him gallons of homemade gumbo that he and a friend planned to give away, and three small doses of an obscure psychedelic compound known as “2C-I.” Each 10 mg dose was just enough for a stimulant effect, according to Reed, to keep him awake and dancing all night to Government Mule, Widespread Panic, and the Allman Brothers Band.

Reed was introduced to psychedelics sometime in his sophomore year of college, where he was very active on campus and maintained a high GPA, all the while choosing to smoke marijuana instead of doing “the typical college drinking thing.” He already knew marijuana was not the “evil, dangerous drug people portrayed it to be.”

“My experimentation with psychedelics came as a result of the same understanding I went through with marijuana... if I had been lied to my whole life about that, I figured I'd find out what else I was lied to about.”

Reed was interested in exploring psychedelics and researched a number of them on Erowid , the free and extensive internet archive of psychoactive substances that contains thousands of anonymous reports of the effects of various substances. After some basic experimentation with LSD, Reed came to many profound realizations that fundamentally changed his life and worldview.

“I feel like I got a boost of motivation and developed my own understanding of how I relate to the rest of the universe and what part I play in this world.”

He shared his experiences anonymously on Erowid, and soon began exploring more compounds, where he learned about the 2C drugs. He was looking for something that had the potential “to give me other perspectives I had not otherwise experienced on LSD.”

Reed first heard of 2C-I by reading the experience reports on Erowid, and the book PIHKAL , an archive of psychedelic compounds created by Dr. Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, a former research chemist for Dow Chemical who is best known for introducing MDMA to psychedelic culture, and who was also the inventor of 2C-I. Reed felt he made an informed decision that 2C-I was safe to try. No deaths had ever been reported on the substance.

“It also had the benefit, so I thought, of keeping me out of trouble.”

Reed believed it was not against the law to possess 2C-I since it is an “unscheduled” compound, meaning it does not appear on the federal schedule (or ranking system) of Controlled Substances, nor is it explicitly made illegal in any known law. This makes it technically “not-illegal.” This distinction was critical to Reed, because he had worked too hard to jeopardize everything he had going for him to risk getting busted for possession of illegal drugs.

That measure of security would prove to be chimeric.

Expecting only 10,000 people, the festival was overwhelmed when three times that number flowed through the gates. In response, like flies to a bloated carcass, it also appears that a commensurate number of undercover police officers joined in. Word quickly began to circulate about the sheer number of cops among them, and the equally audacious number of people getting busted for what seemed like ultra-petty offenses like smoking pot.

Pot busts are extremely rare at major music festivals like this one, where smoking in the open is de rigeur. The conventional wisdom has been that these festivals provide safe containers for minor drug use, and the logistics of hauling out petty offenders to face misdemeanor busts was too cumbersome for zealous enforcement. Not so at Wanee, where it seemed like the police were out for blood (or at the very least, bank).

After the Allman Brothers set, Reed and two friends left the main stage and were hanging out together in a darker, quieter area of the festival grounds when a young man approached them and struck up a conversation. At gatherings like these, this is not at all out of character.

“We started talking about music we like, and he mentioned Phish and STS9. He started naming individual shows, like the Rothbury (Michigan) STS9 show in 2008, which we both agreed was amazing. We connected immediately.”

Appearing as if he might be fishing (or Phishing, as the case may be) for a hook-up, about a half hour later the stranger says, "It just sucks. I got some bunk tabs earlier. I wish I could find something here that wasn't fucking bunk. You guys know where to get any molly (MDMA)?" This too is not an unfamiliar practice at festivals, which, the police would argue, is why their presence is justified.

“I told him that I didn't have any molly, but I had this one 2C-I pill left. He seemed curious so I explained to him what it was. He begged me to let him buy it, so I let him have it. He offered me ten dollars for it. I shrugged and took it. As soon as that happened, BAM! He grabbed my arm, and told me that I had sold to an undercover.”

Reed maintained a level head though, did not struggle, and pleaded his innocence while remaining calm and avoiding the stupid kinds of self incrimination most fall into once confronted by police. He informed the undercover and his Sergeant that the substance they took from him was not illegal. They were having none of it. They charged him with “sale of MDMA” and “possession of MDMA with intent to distribute.” In other words, they not only set him up, and got the charge wrong, but they called him a drug dealer too.

“I told the undercover the charges wouldn’t stick,” Reed said.

He also claims the Sergeant told the undercover that he could let Reed go, and that the only way Reed might have broken the law is if he sold the 2C-I in “lieu of MDMA” as if he tried to pass it off as MDMA.”

“That’s exactly what he did,” the undercover told his superior.

Reed was incensed, and protested, but they laughed him off. It was only the beginning. He must have felt like he was in an alternate universe when the police later informed him that his 2C-I “field tested positive for MDMA.”

Whether this was true, or whether it was simply a charge that would stick, the net result was that Reed, the ostensibly well-read, law-abiding, volunteer civil servant, was now facing a felony bust, and the end of that promising future.

2C, or not 2C...that is the question

How is it that a purportedly legal substance (or at the very least, one that is not explicitly illegal) garners a felony bust? Perhaps we should begin by taking a look at the mysterious compound that caused all the trouble.

2C-I (or 2,5-dimethoxy-4-iodophenethylamine) belongs to a family of twenty-nine “2C” compounds which include the more notable 2C-B, 2C-E, and 2C-T-7 that are designated Schedule 1 or “dangerous with a high abuse potential and no known or accepted medicinal applications.” All of these compounds were invented (“synthesized” is how the chemists put it) by Shulgin.

Of course, that’s just the government talking, so you know where to rank their opinion. They say the same thing about marijuana, LSD, peyote, psilocybin, and DMT, none of which are addictive in the strict sense of the word, even though arguably marijuana can and does produce some “psychological dependency.” As to whether any of these substances are dangerous, well, that’s really all in how you define “dangerous.”

Psychedelics are certainly considered dangerous by the powers that be, but not because of any imminent physical harm; it’s their perceived power to up-end the social order that is the real threat. But forty years after that particular breed of hysteria swept the nation, the scientific establishment is quickly reversing their opinions on much of this fear-mongering. Let us remember that most these substances have been used as traditional medicines for thousands of years, and too much of anything is no good. Even ancient tribes had their rules and regulations, and the Shamans usually lived on the fringes of society.

The 2C drugs are psychedelic compounds that some classify as “entheogenic,” or substances that facilitate spiritual experiences. Sasha, as a scientist, prefers the term “psychedelic,” derived from the Greek word for for “mind-manifesting.” These substances are mostly found in the self-described “psychonaut” or consciousness-expanding culture, but regularly pop-up in rave culture as well, particularly 2C-B, which is as common as MDMA in many rave circles.

For anyone who thinks the “entheogen” moniker is a ruse that lacks virtue, 2C-B is used as a healing sacrament by some indigenous South African tribes. 2C-B is the active ingredient of a semi-synthetic “herbal” compound called “Ubulawu Nomathotholo” or the “Medicine of the Singing Ancestors.” What makes this unique is that in this case shamanic healers chose this semi-synthetic over their traditional healing plants.

The 2C compounds produce a wide range of effects. Some are highly visual, while some are deeply introspective. Others enhance cognition or have primarily emotional effects. Many have few overt psychedelic effects at all. They are generally less potent and shorter acting than other more well known psychedelics.

2C-B is known as a sensual, tactile drug, often referred to as an “aphrodisiac.” 2C-T-7 is called “7th-Heaven” because it tends to produce states of enlightenment. 2C-E is known as “the teacher” because it promotes optimism, thoughtfulness and creativity. 2C-I is a more traditional, overtly LSD-like psychedelic, tending to be more visual and intellectual.

“The story of the 2C compounds,” says chemist Paul Daley, co-author with Sasha Shulgin and Tania Manning of The Shulgin Index: Psychedelic Phenethylamines & Related Compounds , “really starts with the first attempts to modify known naturally occurring psychedelics, to change their activity. This began in 1949 with the creation of the first synthetic analog of mescaline.”

Mescaline, the principle active agent in peyote, was the first known psychedelic. Its use goes back over 7,000 years. It belongs to a family of compounds known as “phenethylamines,” which include the 2C family and more well-known drugs like MDMA, MDA, amphetamine, anti-depressants like Wellbutrin and Effexor, and essential amino acids like L-tyrosine. Phenethylamines are structurally close to dopamine, which is naturally occurring in the brain, and is involved with the sensing of pleasure and ‘reward.’ Phenethylamines are thought to be involved in the drive to repeat dosing with drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines, that stimulate dopamine receptors in the brain.

Until the 20th century, mescaline and cannabis were the only known drugs that were considered “psychedelic” (cannabis has mostly freed itself of this misclassification, although many assert that in the context of “mind-manifesting” it is a classic “psychedelic”). As of the passage of the Controlled Substances Act, there were another 150 known psychedelics, 11 of which including those mentioned above ended up on the federal drug schedule. This had the single largest impact on drug policy, because it took down the titans of psychedelia and began the 40-year dark age where legal scientific exploration of these compounds nearly ground to a halt.

As we enter the second decade of the new millennium, The Shulgin Index identifies some 1350 known compounds, of which roughly a third have been tested on humans and proven as psychoactive. Shulgin is credited with many of their discoveries as well.

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Niccolo and Donkey

This is a good read :thumbsup: