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DIY morphine raises questions about application of the law

Most of our California readers know that it is illegal to manufacture substances that are listed in the Controlled Substances Act. From marijuana to methamphetamines, anyone caught making these substances can face incredibly serious criminal charges and harsh prosecution. Even possessing certain ingredients and equipment that could be used to create these drugs is forbidden by state and federal laws.

But there is one innocuous ingredient that could start raising questions about the application of the law soon because of the fact that it could be used to create morphine, which is a controlled substance. The method of producing morphine at home was discovered by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, using DNA-hacked yeast. Their process could result in DIY morphine production that opens up possible issues with the current application of the law.

For those who have not heard about this scientific discovery yet, the yeast researchers used is able to "convert sugar to a chemical that's a precursor to morphine." Because the process does not use the poppy plant, the yeast-created morphine is not technically an opiate. This begs the question: would this form of morphine still be considered a controlled substance?

Under the current classification system, the answer appears to be no. But some policymakers want to change that by introducing new regulations before scientists decide to complete the process for DIY morphine.

Though these regulations would mostly be put in place to address the potential for abuse, one could argue that new regulations would also give the public clarification on what the law considers illegal. This would likely be a welcomed thing by many across the nation, especially considering the steep penalties a person can face if they are convicted of manufacturing a controlled substance.

Source: The Denver Post, "Discovery opens door for homemade morphine, painkillers," Alicia Chang, May 18, 2015

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