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"Natural Substances":

Nev. Rev. Stats. § 202.380 bars felons from possessing "tear gas," defined in § 202.370 as:

all liquid, gaseous or solid substances intended to produce temporary physical discomfort or permanent injury through being vaporized or otherwise dispersed in the air. The term does not include a liquid, gaseous or solid substance whose active ingredient is composed of natural substances or products derived from natural substances which cause no permanent injury through being vaporized or otherwise dispersed in the air.

My question: How exactly should courts interpret the phrase "composed of natural substances or products derived from natural substances" mean here? In a sense, isn't everything composed of products derived from natural substances?

greenish (mail):
Maybe they meant to prohibit the use of Meteorite-derived tear gas?
4.13.2009 7:22pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Heh.....

That is pretty good.

Another interesting problem is one regarding pepper spray. Is this the intended exception? If not, is it a crime for a felon to put tabasco sauce in a spray bottle?
4.13.2009 7:22pm
FWB (mail):
Typical kneejerk legislation written by incompetent legislators!!

To answer your question: Yes, EVERYTHING is derived from a natural substance.
4.13.2009 7:23pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Greenish:

Meteorites are composed of natural substances, right?
4.13.2009 7:23pm
Nathan_M (mail):
Does this mean felons can't dice onions?
4.13.2009 7:25pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
Maybe the key is that the natural substances have to be ones "which cause no permanent injury through being vaporized or otherwise dispersed in the air". An active ingredient which is composed of or derived from other natural substances wouldn't qualify.
4.13.2009 7:25pm
Lior:
Canisters of luminiferous aether should probably count as having an un-natural active ingredient.
4.13.2009 7:25pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
Mace has capsaicinoids as the active ingredient. These, of course, are derived from hot peppers. Do they really mean to allow felons to carry Mace?

I had a friend who got into trouble trying to carry a small bottle of Mace through an airport. This was years before 9/11.
4.13.2009 7:25pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
FWB: Maybe it is intended to ban Element 122-based tear gasses? I suppose it depends on whether "derived from" can include fully synthetic elements.
4.13.2009 7:27pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Edward A. Hoffman:

Perhaps.

Strange issue. I am having real trouble interpreting this statute. Does this mean that corrupt politicians are forbidden from spraying organophosphate-based pesticides on their trees? From carrying mace? From possessing methyl alcohol (sterno) for industrial purposes? I can't figure out what is banned and what is not.....
4.13.2009 7:34pm
Colin Adkins (mail):
The Nevada Supreme Court isn't very helpful. Sorg v. State (Nev. 1973) 89 Nev. 130, 507 P.2d 1038, states:

"PER CURIAM.
After a jury trial, the appellant was convicted of the illegal possession of a cartridge or weapon capable of emitting tear gas (NRS 202.380), and was sentenced to pay a $500 fine.

The appellant contends that the definition of 'tear gas,' as defined in NRS 202.370(2), and as applied in NRS 202.380, is unconstitutionally vague. Under the facts of this case, we find the contention to be unwarranted."
4.13.2009 7:40pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
All of the transuranic elements other than plutonium and neptunium are not "natural substances" in the sense that they do not occur in nature. They are man-made in reactors or particle accelerators. I suppose one could say that they are derived from natural substances in that some if not most of them are created by bombarding plutonium with neutrons, and plutonium does occur naturally in trace quantities.

I'm really hard pressed to come up with something that is in no sense "derived" from natural substances. Perhaps anti-matter.
4.13.2009 7:41pm
Ari (mail) (www):
FWB is right, of course. This is nothing less than the product of chemophobes who don't understand that what is natural may not be (and usually is not) healthful to humans.

Ricin, for example, is all-natural.
4.13.2009 7:41pm
teqjack (mail):
Analogy, based on experience I have had:

Aspirin, as purchased in a pharmacy, is "manufactured" and thus not "natural." Must not use.

Aspirin, as distilled from willow bark, is "natural." Merely unavailable on any widespread basis. Suffer, you anti-Gaia so-and-so.
4.13.2009 7:46pm
sureyoubet:
I think "ectoplasm" (slime in Ghostbusters) is a SUPERnatural substance
4.13.2009 7:47pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
How about "natural flavorings" or "natural dyes" that have exactly the same chemical structure as the artificial versions. Why would one pay extra for the "natural version?" The whole mentality surrounding "natural" smacks of voodoo.
4.13.2009 7:49pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
A. Zarkov wrote:
All of the transuranic elements other than plutonium and neptunium are not "natural substances" in the sense that they do not occur in nature.
Sure they do. Like all of the other heavy elements, they are produced in supernova explosions. The transuranic elements just appear very briefly before decaying into lighter, more stable elements.

It's possible that a significant fraction of the atomic nuclei on Earth were produced by the decay of transuranic elements over the course of many billions of years. (The decay would have occurred before the material became part of the Earth, but that does not change the fact that it is natural.) Since we can't tell which atoms were formed that way and which weren't, this is not a useful distinction.
4.13.2009 7:59pm
Matt_T:
When flatulence is outlawed, only outlaws will have flatulence.
4.13.2009 8:02pm
Tom952 (mail):
Canisters of luminiferous aether should probably count as having an un-natural active ingredient.

Well, if it had turned out to be real, it was ubiquitous and natural.
4.13.2009 8:06pm
TyWebb:
Isn't this a George Carlin routine? Something about how toxic waste and dog sh*t are "natural," but that doesn't make them good food?
4.13.2009 8:08pm
cboldt (mail):
-- Something about how toxic waste and dog sh*t are "natural," but that doesn't make them good food? --
.
I use "toadstools" as a similar example of "natural." Once could use nightshade or poison ivy as well.
4.13.2009 8:12pm
Daniel San:
Kryptonite.
4.13.2009 8:13pm
States of mind (www):

all liquid, gaseous or solid substances intended to produce temporary physical discomfort or permanent injury through being vaporized or otherwise dispersed in the air.


Discomfort or injury by way of vaporization?

I guess I didn't realize how tear gas worked.
4.13.2009 8:21pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
There's some really unpleasant aftershave out there.
4.13.2009 8:23pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Edward A. Hoffman:

The transuranics > 94 are not found naturally on earth. If you want to cover the whole universe then other civilizations might have made them too.

On Supernovas as a source for transuranics, Wikipedia says for Supernova nucleosynthesis
Due to the large amounts of energy released in a supernova explosion, much higher temperatures are reached than stellar temperatures. Higher temperatures allow for an environment where elements up to the atomic mass of 254 are formed, californium being the heaviest known,
So it would seem that transuranics beyond californium are not produced in supernovas. Am I missing something?

I'll bring with up with my astrophysics friend when we have lunch this week.
4.13.2009 8:32pm
JoshL (mail):
Some men just can't hold their arsenic...
4.13.2009 8:38pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
A Zarkov:
There is reason to think that Unbibium (Element 122) is a naturally occurring element. I don't know how far this has been confirmed though. It seems to be subject to some debate.
4.13.2009 9:21pm
ASlyJD (mail):
But, JoshL, he had it coming . . .
4.13.2009 9:38pm
Karl Lembke (mail) (www):
In an attempt at some seriousness, they may have been thinking of substances as they occur in nature.

I understand, from my college notes, that human bodies contain enough radioactivity -- from sources such as carbon-14 and potassium-40 -- that were they not naturally occurring, people would have to be buried in low-level rad waste facilities.

So maybe "naturally occurring" ends after a certain amount of processing takes place.

Or maybe, if it's been blessed by a cleric, it becomes a supernatural material, and felons aren't allowed to carry it.
4.13.2009 9:46pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
A. Zarkov wrote:
The transuranics > 94 are not found naturally on earth. If you want to cover the whole universe then other civilizations might have made them too.
The statute says "natural substances", not "substances which are found in nature on Earth". Even if other civilizations have manufactured them as you suggest, that would not change the fact that they also occur naturally.

You may be right about Californium being the heaviest element produced in supernovae. That's far beyond my expertise.
4.13.2009 9:55pm
Jeff Wilson (mail):
It sounds like the intent is to prevent felons from possessing a type of weapon based on the range of target rather than chemical content. They wanted to prevent the possession of things that were generally targeted to more than one person, while allowing for personal defensive measures like pepper spray. Maybe they should have taken that angle.

Of course everything derives from a "natural product" in an almost tautological sense, so the angle they are pursuing, given the supposed intent of the law, must be to distinguish tear gas chemically from things like pepper spray. I don't know the exact chemical composition of these things, but the distinguishing criterion seems to be whether the chemical structure of the active ingredient sprang in whole or in part from the mind of man.

So, for example, if a vegetable contains a compound that makes one's eyes burn and someone notes this, and chemists identify and isolate the compound and use it in a tear-gas like device, it's allowed. It should be allowed even if chemists devise a way to synthesize it from other starting materials. If chemists change the structure in any way, either by acting on the compound obtained directly from its original source or by synthesizing it in the altered form, then it's off-limits.

It does seem an indirect and back-handed way of addressing the real issue.
4.13.2009 10:20pm
tommears (mail):
As a chemist I'd typically describe "natural substance" to imply something produced in nature by a biological organism (a plant or animal), or a chemical produced through geochemical means. Something that is not "natural" would be something sythesized from simple feedstock by a chemist in a lab.

I'd think it was intended to cover sarin, VX, mustard gas, phosgene and other nerve agents or chemical warfare agents. The majority of these were originally sythesized in a lab and do not occur in nature.

The distinction would be pepper spray which is "derived" from the "natural material" capsicum or hot pepers.

The obvious problem with this is that hydrogen cyanide gas is "natrual" using this definition; but you would certainly not wanting people spray this hither and yon.
4.13.2009 10:22pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
The natural substance I was thinking of that would be nasty is ammonia.
4.13.2009 10:52pm
KenB (mail):
ASlyJD and JoshL:

If you'd've been there, you'd've done it, too.
4.13.2009 10:56pm
David Schwartz (mail):
The statute must envision some rule for what constitutes "derived from natural substances". Exactly what the rule might be is far from clear. I think a reasonable interpretation might be that purification processes of natural substances still leave things derived from natural substances but chemical changes that add the harm-producing attributes don't.

But this is definitely a very vague law. You have to guess what it means.
4.13.2009 11:56pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
I just noticed that, taken at face value, felons are barred from boiling water....
4.14.2009 12:18am
cboldt (mail):
-- I just noticed that, taken at face value, felons are barred from boiling water ... --
.
I think you have the argument reversed. Felons can posess materials that are composed of natural substances or products derived from natural substances which cause no permanent injury through being vaporized or otherwise dispersed in the air, provided they are not intended to produce temporary physical discomfort or permanent injury through being vaporized or otherwise dispersed in the air.
4.14.2009 12:53am
Daniel Leathers (mail):
I think this was a very poor attempt to differentiate "real" Mace -- made of Phenacyl chloride -- from the weaker "normal" pepper spray -- made of oleoresin capsicum.

Mace: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phenacyl_chloride
Paper Spray: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pepper_spray
Tear Gas: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CS_gas
4.14.2009 1:33am
Curt Fischer:
The "chemical modification" rule is not as bright-line as some people think.

In a plant, say a natural substance occurs with an ionizable carboxylate group, or amine. If we extract that compound and change the pH, the carboxylate group could be protonated, or the amine could be deprotonated. For example, "freebased" cocaine is just cocaine with its ammonium group deprotonated to the amine form. Is that a "chemical modification"?

If somebody methylates the amide group of capscaicin, or maybe the phenolic -OH group, the result would probably be nearly as effective as unmethylated capscaicin as an irritant. And some enterprising analytical chemist could probably detect this modification, perhaps at sub-attomolar levels, in "natural" extracts.

Would such a finding then suddenly make it legal for someone to possess methylated capscaicin? Analytical chemists can usually detect anything if they try hard enough. Maybe funding would rush into "zeptomolar analysis" projects from some pretty shady sources if the "chemical modification" standard became the national norm.
4.14.2009 11:50am

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