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Author: Subject: We should start a petition to remove iodine as a List I drug precursor in the US
Melgar
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We should start a petition to remove iodine as a List I drug precursor in the US

A few years ago, one of my mom's friends who homeschools her kids approached me, and asked if I knew where she could get iodine. Apparently a whole bunch of experiments in her kids' science textbooks used it, but she couldn't figure out where to get it. This would have been well after the DEA banned it, probably 2011. I dissolved some in isopropanol and gave it to her, but that incident just made me realize how far-reaching some of the effects of these sorts of bans can be. It was really stupid to ban it in the first place. I think the only reason they did is because police were frustrated that they couldn't use iodine stains as probable cause to arrest suspects for methamphetamine manufacturing. Of course, as soon as the law changes, criminals update their tactics, which is exactly what happened.

There are, I believe, 12 reactive nonmetals on the periodic table of elements. Ten of these, including iodine, are needed for human life. And two of these ten elements have been banned by the DEA, because they can be used to convert pseudoephedrine into methamphetamine, in a reaction that nobody uses anymore. Let's face it, if "eradicating meth" was such a huge priority, pseudoephedrine should have been made prescription-only long before resorting to element bans.

Iodine is, by far, the heaviest nonmetal, and is a relatively safe element to experiment with. It's used to test for so many different things, that if you mention "the iodine test" to a chemist, they'll probably ask you to be more specific. You can use it to test the polarity of a solvent, or to test for starch, or unsaturated C=C bonds, or methyl ketones. It can be used to test for antioxidants and oxidizers, stain TLC plates, and a host of other things. And those are just the tests it's used for; it's invaluable as part of synthesis procedures. Outside of chemistry, it's an excellent disinfectant, both for water and wounds, it's needed to mitigate the problems caused by radioactive fallout, and it plays a vital role in human metabolism. The lethal dose to humans isn't even known because it's so high, and it's a potent antioxidant.

Potassium iodide is still legal, and if crude iodine was desired (crude iodine being all that's needed for meth labs) it could easily be obtained from iodide salts. It's the people who need purer iodine, for other purposes, that are out of luck.

In any case, List I precursors are supposed to be NECESSARY for the manufacture of particular drugs. Methamphetamine contains neither iodine nor phosphorus, and there are dozens of ways to make it that require neither.

This is an issue that both Republicans and Democrats would support if the right language was used. To Republicans and Democrats, this is one regulation that nobody would miss. It's hurting our scientists, businesses, and our ability to compete with the rest of the world. I can probably quote a few chemists that will attest that even though they could purchase it if necessary, it's been avoided due to the significant red tape. If we were serious about cracking down on meth labs, then pseudoephedrine should be available by prescription only, like antibiotics. It's far more critical to meth cooks than either iodine or phosphorus, but of course, the "meth task force" cops who wrote this legislation wanted their jobs to be EASIER, not completely eliminated. Ok, scratch that last part, even though it's probably true. Point is, there's an actual protocol for getting substances reclassified, and I'm pretty sure the top DEA guy has to issue some sort of response. If it's just some bullshit about being tough on drugs, then the next step would be letters to representatives about "executive overreach during previous administrations", "nanny-state regulations", parents that are unable to homeschool their kids, etc. It's really a very black and white issue. No harm at all would come from either reclassifying iodine, or removing it from the list altogether. Anyone saying otherwise can be proven wrong, decisively.

Anyway, if I do the initial work, can I count on you guys to at least write to your representatives and sign the change.org petition? After all, for every letter they get, it's assumed in politics that 100 more people feel that way but just never wrote a letter.

I picked iodine because it's the easiest and most obvious candidate for reclassification, although I think benzaldehyde and phosphorus should be removed from the list too, and that there's no valid case that can be made to keep iodine and benzaldehyde on the list at all.

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clearly_not_atara
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I support this endeavor.

Although, being me, perhaps this endeavor is better off without my support. I'll sign the petition at least.

How banned is iodine? Can't you still get the tincture?
JJay
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I do think iodine and red phosphorus should be removed from List I. In my mind it is harder to make the case for de-listing benzaldehyde.

Iodine is already bought and sold notoriously on a regular basis with no apparent interest from law enforcement. Red phosphorus and benzaldehyde are too but on a far lesser scale.

One thing that would really help would be to get the ACS to adopt a resolution calling for the changes you'd like to see in existing regulations.

Do you have details on the protocol that the DEA has to follow to de-list a substance? I know they can list and schedule substances by posting notices in the Federal Register, but I haven't read anything on their de-listing protocol. Whether they issue a response to a petition is actually at the discretion of the President or a court, but it's reasonable to expect them to respond with enough signatures.

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That's strange, are you not able to order iodine prills online? I'm not the most familiar with chemical regulations outside the EU, but I found this eBay listing that ships on the ground within the US:
https://m.ebay.com/itm/Hawthorne-Iodine-Crystals-USP-Resubli...

Anyway, aryl aldehydes don't really have much use aside from pharmaceuticals and perfumery, I can't really see these being deregulated soon. Not just benzaldehyde, but piperonal and 3,4,5-trimethoxybenzaldehyde due to their major role in the synthesis of psychoactive phenethylamines.

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JJay
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3,4,5-trimethoxybenzaldehyde isn't a listed chemical in the U.S. It's actually fairly easy to obtain. But it's rarely used for anything nefarious.

That eBay listing is actually illegal, but law enforcement isn't likely to give it a second glance, and the seller has a good reputation.

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So it gets even weirder, I just assumed it would've been since trimethoxyamphetamines are made in an analogous way to methylenedioxy/amphetamine from the respective aldehyde, but I guess it is far less widespread as they are not one of the 'staple' recreational psychoactives. That would explain it then, I guess that any potential legal action would be taken against the seller but it's probably not worth the risk in case they decide to do some further snooping, I've heard plenty of stories regarding the DEA seizing perfectly legal setups and such simply because it's amateur chemistry and they can easily make a case for possible clandestine manufacture.

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JJay
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I think most of those sorts of stories are about local police departments rather than the DEA. Chemistry is not illegal. But if you buy some iodine and lab glassware and law enforcement decides to pay you a visit in the U.S., they don't necessarily need your consent to enter your residence. For that matter, they don't even need to knock.

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SWIM
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List 1 means illegal?

I thought it just meant closely watched and regulated, as opposed to schedule 1 like lysergic acid being actually illegal to possess without those DEA clearances.

I just checked a DOJ site and it looks like pseudoephedrine is list 1, which leaves me a little confused about this.
(I don't want pseudophed, My allergies are fine, but I mention it because Its the one thing on that list I That I see in pharmacies.)
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I'd be surprised if ordering trimethoxybenzdehyde didn't send Feds to your house. Not everything that's watched is listed... and 3,4,5-trimethoxybenzaldehyde has fewer legitimate uses than piperonal - at least that I can think of.
JJay
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If the feds had problems with it on a regular basis, they would put restrictions on it. List I doesn't necessarily mean illegal, but it does mean that there are restrictions due to evidence that law enforcement has gathered on actual systematic misuse of the substance for drug manufacture. This is not necessarily the best approach.

In the case of iodine, it has been used historically for illegal purposes, but the major illegal purpose for which it was used is now less feasible due to restrictions on ephedrine, and even where ephedrine is available, iodine is rarely used for illegal purposes any more. Right?

[Edited on 18-10-2017 by JJay]

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The Mexican Cartels produce so much meth that is actually CHEAPER to buy than precursors cost in the U.S. by at least a factor of 2.

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Just to clear things up regarding US federal law. The federal government was quite weak when the constitution was written, so people will occasionally challenge federal laws in court as being unconstitutional. With the right judge, they can often win, which can cause a bunch of problems for the feds. As a result, laws are typically written such that they use a power granted by the constitution to the federal government. The federal government has the constitutional authority to regulate interstate commerce, (among other things) and so when certain things are banned, what they actually do is either prohibit them from being sold, or require a lot of licenses and permits to sell them. In either case, laws are written to apply to the seller, not to the buyer. With iodine and phosphorus, sellers have to keep extensive, annoying records of who they sell to, and as a result rarely bother with small purchases by the public. The exception, of course, is anyone selling via mail-order to the US, from outside the US. They're outside the jurisdiction of US law, then, and many here take advantage of sellers like that. If anyone is found to have listed chemicals in their possession, law enforcement still has to prove intent in order to prosecute. Either that or just throw a lot of regulatory infractions at them.

As far as removing iodine from the list, I have no problem acquiring the stuff myself, but I want to remove it anyway, because the government SHOULD seriously review its regulations periodically and see if they still make sense. With pseudoephedrine, the pharma companies have added all these fillers that make it very difficult to isolate the drug from them. The reaction that uses iodine is practically worthless if there are significant amounts of fillers left, which is why it's not being used much anymore. That and the cheap influx from Mexican cartels.

Iodine has been heavily restricted since 2007 though, and methamphetamine production has changed drastically since then.

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TheNerdyFarmer
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It can't be that hard to get.

It is actually relatively cheap on ebay.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/50g-1-76-oz-99-8-Iodine-Crystals-Hi...

The main thing you would have to worry about is your package being searched and the local law enforcement paying you a visit.
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It is very important that iodine remains a restricted substance,
you can't have people using home health remedies instead of supporting big pharma ......

I use the antimicrobial properties of Lugol's Iodine for all in my family - great on spots or boils.
(for general acne 1% H2O2 is better)

Also, we do not want plebs to have access to iodine or they may become healthy and intelligent and challenge the status quo - chaos.

Here in UK iodine is (as far as I know) not a controlled substance,
I have almost 250g of it, plus some KI and Lugol's.
Chemistry wise, I have not used much iodine, but I'm only now begining to try a little OC.

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For the petition to work, the government would have to admit it was wrong.

Good luck.
Melgar
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 Quote: Originally posted by unionised For the petition to work, the government would have to admit it was wrong. Good luck.

Hmm... let's see... slavery, there's one. Alcohol prohibition, there's two. The Vietnam War? Stranger things have happened. Like, I never thought I'd read ""President Trump sent out a Twitter blast" in the New York Times, and yet here we are.

I found the relevant law regarding scheduled precursors:

I had that up in an open tab, but then my laptop crashed and I lost the link, but then found it again. It's here, along with the list of scheduled precursors:

It seems they just gave up on list 2. I wonder what that was all about? Probably List 2 was for tracking larger operations, but then all the larger operations moved out of the country.

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JJay
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You do realize that a petition technically only requires one signature, right?

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If you want something unbanned, just come up with a decent way it can be taxed easily. In the Uk the biggest problem drug is Ethanol, kills more people, causes more violence, ruins more lives than all others combined. But when you got a nice easy way to tax it then its ok to be legal.
Melgar
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 Quote: Originally posted by NEMO-Chemistry If you want something unbanned, just come up with a decent way it can be taxed easily. In the Uk the biggest problem drug is Ethanol, kills more people, causes more violence, ruins more lives than all others combined. But when you got a nice easy way to tax it then its ok to be legal.

Whenever I travel to Europe, I always notice that most things are significantly more expensive than I'm used to, with one exception: alcohol. It could just be that alcohol is taxed indirectly in the US, via permitting for establishments that serve it or something.

Of course, heavily-taxed alcohol didn't stop the US government from enacting prohibition, despite the fact that that's where the federal government derived most of its income since its inception. That was actually what had previously made prohibition impossible, up until the income tax was established as a primary revenue source. Turns out moralism is a stronger force than self-interest. Of course, the repeal of prohibition two amendments later proved that human nature is stronger than even moralism.

 Quote: You do realize that a petition technically only requires one signature, right?

Yeah. But if you just have one person behind a petition, it's a lot less effective. Also, I was looking for ideas to potentially make it more effective, and someone suggested getting the ACS onboard. I thought that was a good idea, because the ACS probably deals with a lot less crap submitted by the public than the federal government does, so they might take public submissions more seriously. The detriment to chemistry education that results from the iodine sales ban could be enough of an impetus to get the ACS onboard.

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NEMO-Chemistry
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If you take the exchange into consideration (although not so much at the moment, but when it was normally around $1.45 to £1), I think alcohol was way more expensive here. I dont drink but I am aware its normal to pay over £3 per bottle of bud. so nearly$5 a little while back.

In scotland its even more, they now charge per unit of alcohol.

Prohibition etc is indirectly connected to fundamental differences between the ages and differences in culture. For example as a nation that is over 1000 years old, the UK has pretty much lost the majority of its patriotism. As a newer culture the USA still has a deep rooted sense of country, an example of this would be telling someone they are American in the way they behave/live/act.

Although i have only been there a couple of times, i witnessed this myself in an argument. Upto that point it had been fairly reasonable natured argument, the moment this person was accused of being unAmerican all hell broke loose.

in the UK if you tell most people they are not being British, or acting 'un British', 99.9999% would give you a so what shrug and see it as a very poor attempt at an insult.

Then you have the bible belt, we in the Uk have nothing approaching this in any form, yes we have religious people, but try and find even a small religious community. Whats more try and find one where God is integrated into most aspects of there lives.

So to me prohibition was not so hard to get through, tell people its evil and against god, tell those that disagree they are being unAmerican..........

I am not great at history, but looking back 400-500 years ago the UK was probably more Like America than it is today. I would say historically before America was independent or 'discovered', there were similarities between how people saw and thought about the nation.

Maybe in 400 years time being told your unAmerican wont mean a thing. I havnt mentioned your constitution, but its a good example of difference, from what i saw on visits there, just about everyone believed in the constitution almost like (to me anyway) it was some kind of holy grail. Again we having nothing remotely similar that people in the Uk believe as passionately in. I think maybe going back say 70 years, then maybe Queen/king and country, meant something here. But that is long long gone.

Living here feels like living in a watered down nation, almost like a star in its death throws. Like Greece, there is no doubt that the UK has had its hay day, the great things of the past are history, the future dosnt hold the same promise here.

No of this i hope is taken the wrong way, there is much I admire of my nations history. There is also much I admire about America today, but I wish I could live 500 years more, just to see if America ends up where the UK is today.

Sorry for going a bit off topic.

BTW I have a American friend who moved to the UK 4 years ago, he is still 95% American in thought and deed. What i really love about him, when someone (literally anyone) does well in an exam or anything really, he is happy for them and always makes the loudest noise and gives the most profuse congratulations. All my UK friends are so much more aloof and reserved, almost as if they actually resent others doing well.
Even on my visits there, i loved this aspect of the American culture.
Melgar
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 Quote: Originally posted by NEMO-Chemistry Then you have the bible belt, we in the Uk have nothing approaching this in any form, yes we have religious people, but try and find even a small religious community. Whats more try and find one where God is integrated into most aspects of there lives.

Oh, but you do! There are very large religious communities there. Worryingly large, one might say. They even sometimes try to implement their own laws. Granted, they tend to be somewhat outcast on account of the various bombing incidents...

 Quote: Maybe in 400 years time being told your unAmerican wont mean a thing. I havnt mentioned your constitution, but its a good example of difference, from what i saw on visits there, just about everyone believed in the constitution almost like (to me anyway) it was some kind of holy grail.

I know! This is despite the fact that it was written over the course of months of arguing and infighting and compromise. And afterwards, everyone thought it was shitty, but only agreed to it because the people they disagreed with thought it was just as shitty. Quite a few agreed that later generations should probably rewrite it though.

 Quote: Again we having nothing remotely similar that people in the Uk believe as passionately in. I think maybe going back say 70 years, then maybe Queen/king and country, meant something here. But that is long long gone.

The closest you probably have is the Magna Carta. Granted, it was revoked and reinstated a few times (I think?) and was mainly written by nobility that were pissed off at a particularly awful sort-of-king. But it was an official document that, at the time, put limits on the power of the ruling government, and was an inspiration for the US Constitution if nothing else.

 Quote: Living here feels like living in a watered down nation, almost like a star in its death throws. Like Greece, there is no doubt that the UK has had its hay day, the great things of the past are history, the future dosnt hold the same promise here.

Yeah, I get it. I guess that's the price you pay for having such a huge amount of history. Someone that I knew growing up had a collection of arrowheads that he found in creek beds. That's about all we have as evidence of American culture prior to the 1700s in that area of the country. Of course, being on top makes you a little bit crazy. You think the world revolves around you, and are more paranoid about the national government because they're the most powerful organization in the world. My dad has always insisted that every empire eventually gets wiped off the face of the Earth and that we'd be next. Finally, once I learned a bit about history, I asked him "What about the British Empire?" My dad couldn't really think of much to say, so I finally was like "you just eventually get less relevant, then have to learn to deal with it. We might have to do that with China at some point. They might overtake us, but they won't wipe us out."

 Quote: BTW I have a American friend who moved to the UK 4 years ago, he is still 95% American in thought and deed. What i really love about him, when someone (literally anyone) does well in an exam or anything really, he is happy for them and always makes the loudest noise and gives the most profuse congratulations. All my UK friends are so much more aloof and reserved, almost as if they actually resent others doing well. Even on my visits there, i loved this aspect of the American culture.

My brother lived in London for six months, taking over for a woman in his company that went on maternity leave. He said that he noticed this too, and that British people seemed to really admire his enthusiasm and optimism. He eventually learned to play up the American stereotype too, once he got accustomed to the differences in culture enough to understand what they were. Like, in most countries, they're much more forgiving of foreigners for breaking their unwritten social rules, and sometimes it can be useful to break those rules even though you're aware of them, then play up the stereotype as though you didn't know any better.

Really though, I guess you can look at the US as being your rebellious kid that reconciled with his family when he got older, and actually turned out okay despite being a bit nutty.

edit: crap, I forgot to reply with my rough draft of a letter to the ACS. Anyone have a good idea of who in the ACS I should direct this to? I plan to also include some language about how that person is one of the best-situated in the country to get this ban removed just by asking nicely, once I figure out who I'm actually talking to with this letter.

[Edited on 10/19/17 by Melgar]

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Ok, first off, the DEA did not "lobby" to regulate iodine. They have regulatory authority over it that was granted to them by statutory law. That's not to say that DEA scientists and so forth didn't "lobby" about it in some sense, but you don't want to risk coming off like you don't know what you're talking about.

Also, I would delete the part where you say that you don't think the officers and chemists who work at the DEA are stupid. And don't discuss whether phenylacetone should be controlled; some libertarian types don't think anything should be controlled at all, and you don't want to get started down any slippery slopes.

I would also take out the part about chemistry not requiring an advanced math background. We're talking about chemistry, not biology. You don't usually need to do differential equations and abstract algebra in chemistry, but you do need to be good at math.

"methamphetamine" not "crystal meth"

"typical trailer park meth lab" - what's that? Try to avoid discussing meth labs and when you have to mention them use only the blandest and most generic of terms. If you have actual statistics and charts, that could be helpful.

Mainly you want to discuss the benefits of legalizing iodine and minimize/dismiss the arguments as to why it should not be legalized (rather than defending against them) while keeping things pretty short and do the point. You're on the attack here, not defense. When you're expressing your opinion (e.g. "It seems preposterous that the heaviest nonmetal....") it is perfectly reasonable to state it as an opinion but at all times assume that you are completely correct in your perceptions and rationality ("It is utterly preposterous that...."). Don't discuss nitrogen triiodide blowing up in your face or other extraneous details, which, while interesting, don't really help your argument.

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 Quote: Originally posted by JJay Ok, first off, the DEA did not "lobby" to regulate iodine. They have regulatory authority over it that was granted to them by statutory law. That's not to say that DEA scientists and so forth didn't "lobby" about it in some sense, but you don't want to risk coming off like you don't know what you're talking about. Also, I would delete the part where you say that you don't think the officers and chemists who work at the DEA are stupid.

Police unions are among the most powerful lobbying forces in the country, and that's why I referred to "the officers and chemists who work at the DEA" and not "the DEA". I guess I should drop any DEA language there and say "the police unions who lobbied for this law" or something similar. I feel like I do need to make the point that when you only see one aspect of iodine's use, you tend not to be aware of the collateral damage you might do by totally removing it from the hands of the public. Ie, it's an issue of being unaware due to the selection bias caused by their jobs, not of being dumb.

 Quote: And don't discuss whether phenylacetone should be controlled; some libertarian types don't think anything should be controlled at all, and you don't want to get started down any slippery slopes.

I actually wanted to sort of make the point that I'm not one of these crazy libertarian-types who thinks that heroin should be for sale at any bodega that cares to stock it. I also sort of felt I needed to point out that putting iodine on the same list as phenylacetone seems dishonest. I could see putting it on list II with toluene and acetone, but as far as legitimate uses vs. illegal uses, they're nowhere close to each other.

 Quote: I would also take out the part about chemistry not requiring an advanced math background. We're talking about chemistry, not biology. You don't usually need to do differential equations and abstract algebra in chemistry, but you do need to be good at math.

That was sort of my point though, chemistry allows kids to get an intuitive understanding of the scientific method. I considered what you're saying, which is why I added the word "advanced". You need statistics for just about every field of science less fundamental than chemistry, and at least calculus to study physics to any meaningful level. I can't imagine someone in a high position of the ACS would get offended if I said that chemistry makes the scientific method more accessible to people with less of a math background, no?

 Quote: "methamphetamine" not "crystal meth" "typical trailer park meth lab" - what's that? Try to avoid discussing meth labs and when you have to mention them use only the blandest and most generic of terms. If you have actual statistics and charts, that could be helpful.

I sort of used that language to distance myself from that group. By displaying a relatively decent understanding of chemistry, combined with law enforcement terminology for drug synthesis, my hope was to create the impression that I'm an upstanding citizen. Not that I'm not, of course!

 Quote: Mainly you want to discuss the benefits of legalizing iodine and minimize/dismiss the arguments as to why it should not be legalized (rather than defending against them) while keeping things pretty short and do the point. You're on the attack here, not defense. When you're expressing your opinion (e.g. "It seems preposterous that the heaviest nonmetal....") it is perfectly reasonable to state it as an opinion but at all times assume that you are completely correct in your perceptions and rationality ("It is utterly preposterous that...."). Don't discuss nitrogen triiodide blowing up in your face or other extraneous details, which, while interesting, don't really help your argument.

Interesting. I'll definitely think about that some more. I know I have a tendency to be too hesitant to assert myself in writing, and attach too many disclaimers to account for the slight inaccuracies that a simplification might introduce.

I made sure to attach the word "high school" to that anecdote, since what high school kid hasn't done something stupid that inevitably taught them a lesson? I also think that what happened in that incident is probably a worst-case scenario for that substance, since it tends to be too sensitive to even have more than a tiny amount in one place. I guess in a letter to a fellow chemist, my aim was to invoke that nostalgia from initial chemistry experiments, with an obvious focus on iodine, then lament its possible loss to future generations of students outside of carefully-controlled settings.

I actually like my writing being critiqued though, so thanks. I took a writing class in college once where nobody ever gave me constructive criticism when it was time to do so, and it kind of annoyed me. So the next time we had to comment on each other's work, I had extensive critical suggestions prepared for each of the other students in the class. Well, let me tell you, I certainly received a lot of criticism that time around, much of it not very constructive at all! But it was worth stepping on a few toes to improve my writing, I think, especially considering that there was dedicated class time each week for critiquing each other's work and few people seemed to be doing it.

The first step in the process of learning something is admitting that you don't know it already.
JJay
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Ok, first off, the police unions aren't that powerful. Academics have a lot more influence than the police. Where criminology professors can basically dictate policy to legislators, the police unions can do little except politely ask legislators for money. They can't even strike. Is their input sought when writing legislation? Sure, but the most powerful cop has less say over the outcome than the lowliest associate professor. I can tell you who is writing the laws, and it's not the cops.

This is my YouTube channel: Extreme Red Cabbage. I don't have much posted, but I try to do nice writeups once in a while.
Melgar
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 Quote: Originally posted by JJay Ok, first off, the police unions aren't that powerful. Academics have a lot more influence than the police. Where criminology professors can basically dictate policy to legislators, the police unions can do little except politely ask legislators for money. They can't even strike. Is their input sought when writing legislation? Sure, but the most powerful cop has less say over the outcome than the lowliest associate professor. I can tell you who is writing the laws, and it's not the cops.

My research into this law seems to indicate that the reason that iodine was added in the first place, was because it was the police unions or their representatives who were asked for their input, without apparently consulting academia. Cops didn't like that they could inspect a suspected meth lab that had iodine stains all over the counter, or iodine-stained garbage, without necessarily being able to arrest anyone.