‘Bath salts’ chemical was $750K-a-year business for Edmonton entrepreneur
June 11th, 2012
EDMONTON — For five years, Greg Adams grew his online company from a one-time arrangement into a successful, $750,000 per year niche business.
The 36-year-old Sherwood Park web designer says he fell into importing chemicals almost by accident, when a former classmate in Toronto needed a chemical for a research lab he managed. Adams had experience importing products from Asia and agreed to look into it.
“I said, ‘Whatever, you’re currently paying, and whatever I can get it for, I’ll split it 50/50 with you,’ ” Adams said. “What he was paying $130 per unit for, I was able to pick up for $25 in China.”
Word of mouth spread and Adams soon had other customers, mostly research labs and university students. In 2005, Adams founded a website that sold and shipped legal, synthetic compoundsimported in bulk from Chinese manufacturers.
When sales peaked in 2010, Adams had three employees and approximately 1,500 accounts. He shipped across North America and to countries such as Israel and Japan.
But in November 2010, an Ontario student took one of the chemicals – a known psychoactive – home to teenage friends, who overdosed and ended up in hospital. An RCMP investigation led back to Adams.
He said Health Canada seized shipments bound for Sherwood Park. Thinking he could appeal, Adams kept making orders. Debts mounted, eventually pushing Adams into bankruptcy while waiting for the chemicals to arrive.
“It was my lawyer’s opinion that Health Canada was illegally classifying it as a drug, because we don’t sell for that purpose. We could have filed an appeal, but it could have taken a couple of years, so we were effectively shut down.”
On Wednesday, Edmonton police issued a public warning about a former bestseller for Adams, 3,4 methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV). As recently as September, he was selling MDPV for $699 for 100 grams directly from Chinese manufacturers.
Marketed in a street drug occasionally called “bath salts,” that quantity is roughly equal to 4,000 doses, based on an average hit of 25 milligrams.
Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced government plans to add the drug to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the same category as heroin and cocaine, just days after the chemical was linked to a bizarre attack in Florida. MDPV gained notoriety in a May 26 attack in Miami, where Rudy Eugene attacked Ronald Poppo, 65, and ate a portion of his face. Police shot and killed Eugene, 31, at the scene.
Police in Edmonton know of only two overdose cases involving “bath salts” in the past six months. Since MDPV is not illegal, they are not seizing it or investigating its sale.
“The big message here is that if you see it, and somebody offers it to you, or if you’re going to purchase it, don’t use it,” said Det. Guy Pilon of the drug and gang enforcement unit.
First synthesized as a stimulant in 1964, MDPV is a white or beige powder, an active compound in many psychoactive powders that are often accompanied by warnings against consuming it.
Yet reports of MDPV as a “zombie” drug trouble Alan Hudson, a University of Alberta pharmacologist and researcher of “legal highs,” chemicals manufactured as designer drugs. Hudson is skeptical of the link between the Florida case and MDPV. He believes Eugene’s behaviour is more characteristic of mephedrone, another chemical found in “bath salts” and more frequently tied to psychotic episodes.
Although Adams said he has moved on to other projects, he defends his former business as aimed at a small market of professional researchers. He knows the chemicals he sold are potentially dangerous and that it’s difficult to verify legitimate use over the Internet.
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