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December 27, 2007 - Evening Sun (PA)

Drug Czar: Just Say No To Toad Licking

By Rick Lee, For The Evening Sun

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

After he stopped laughing, York County drug czar Bill Graff got on the phone with the Pennsylvania State Police crime lab.

"You can lick all the toads you want," had been Graff's initial response. "I don't think it's a crime. There's nothing in the (state) crimes code banning the licking of toads."

Graff didn't believe it, but the question of toad licking came up after a man was arrested in November in Missouri, accused of possession of a Colorado River toad with the intent to lick it to get high.

But the chemists at the crime lab informed Graff, the county's first assistant district attorney and head of the county drug task force, that certain members of the bufo toad family -- specifically the Colorado River toad and the cane toad -- secrete bufotenine, a hallucinogenic alkaloid and a Schedule I controlled substance under both federal and state drug laws.

The chemists told Graff the question of toad licking to get high does not come up very often. They said they vaguely remembered a toad licking case "a long time Advertisement ago." The toads in question are native to western and southwestern states.

"I stand corrected," Graff said. "It's not just an urban legend.

"So, I guess if you caught someone with a Colorado River toad, you could charge them with a Schedule I violation. It's no different from mushrooms or LSD. You would have to prove they intended to use them to lick. I mean not having them as pets.

"It would be delivery of a controlled substance, and the package is the frog, I mean the toad."

Pennsylvania State law does not specifically address bufo toads or any other non-endangered amphibians.

The closest the state's game laws come is noting "there is no requirement for a person possessing ... reptiles."

After he stopped laughing, Dan Tredinnick, press secretary for the Pennsylvania State Fish and Boat Commission, said, "Well, comparing it to soaking a rag with gasoline and huffing it, toad licking doesn't sound that strange."

Tredinnick said there are no regulations governing the possession of hallucinogenic toads "under our small section of the law, so we don't care if you possess one."

State game law does limit the taking of native bufo toads -- the eastern American toad and the Fowler's toad -- to two a day, he said. But Pennsylvania bufos, while they do have venom sacs that secrete a defensive irritant, don't have the hallucinogenic feature of their southwestern cousins, he said.

Tredinick said the fish and boat commission is more concerned with the release of non-native species into the wild. He recalled the northern snakehead scare that grabbed headlines in 2003 when the predatory fish native to China were found in Maryland waterways. Since then, the state has outlawed the possession, sale and transportation of live snakeheads, he said.

He could recall no such similar discussion about bufo toads.

After she stopped laughing, Diana Weaver, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Commission's External Affairs Department, contacted one of her law enforcement agents.

She said "if a critter is taken or possessed in violation of a state law" and then transported across state lines, it could be a violation of the federal Lacey Act.

Similar to the Mann Act of 1910, which made it illegal take a woman across state lines for immoral purposes, the Lacey Act, which "makes it unlawful to import, export, transport, buy or sell fish, wildlife and plants taken or possessed in violation of federal, state or tribal law" and could come into play in interstate toad-licking cases.

The Arrest

Police in Kansas City, Mo., arrested a man in November and charged him with trying to get high by licking a toad.

The 21-year-old had a Colorado River toad, which produces a venom that works as a hallucinogenic on people, KMBC-TV in Kansas City reported.

Bufo toads are found in most of the United States. Native to the southwest, specifically California, Arizona and northern Mexico, is the Bufo alvarius, commonly known as the Sonoran Desert toad and the Colorado River toad.

Glands in the toad's neck and limbs contain bufotenin and dimethyltryptamine, hallucinogens that are listed as federal and Pennsylvania controlled substances and subject to criminal prosecution.

There are a plethora of articles on the Internet dedicated on how to use the venom for hallucinogenic effects. Most suggest "milking" the toad's glands and drying and smoking the venom. Other vaguely worded Web sites about the care and keeping of bufo toads also allude to their psychedelic properties.

Some sites offer toads for sale with prices around $150 for an adult male and $275 for an adult male and female.

Along with the Bufo alvarius, the Bufo marinus or cane toad also produces a mind-altering venom, according to scientific articles. Cane toads are native to Mexico and Central America and were introduced to Australia in the 1930s to control insects.

In Pennsylvania, the most common bufo family member is the Bufo americanus or American toad. Although it too secretes a venom, it will only irritate human skin but can be dangerous if ingested by small animals.

Locally, the York County District Attorney's Office could not recall prosecuting anyone for the possession of a bufo toad or for ingesting the venom.

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