The Sonoran Desert Toad
The Insidious Story of Bob and Connie Shepard
Criminal charges against Mrs. Shepard were subsequently dropped, but Mr. Shepard faced felony charges of illegal possession of controlled substances under California's Controlled Substances Act. The case against Mr. Shepard was finally resolved by a diversion referral. At least some judge isn't a complete idiot!
See an excellent analysis of the problem this case raises:
Criminalizing Nature and Knowledge:
Toads, Cacti, Mushrooms, and the Domain of the Human Brain
by Richard Glen Boire
The New LSD: Psychedelic Toads
Copyright: 1994 by The Associated Press, R
Date: Wed Feb 16 13:50:16 EST 1994
ANGELS CAMP, Calif. (AP) -- The war on drugs has moved into Mark Twain's frog-jumping territory, and it's not pretty.
These drug suppliers are green, squat and lumpy, with big bulging eyes. That's not a description of some comic strip villain. These are toads -- Bufo alvarius. And forget that old myth that handling toads causes warts. These critters secrete a venom from glands on their backs. Drying the venom produces a hallucinogenic drug, bufotenine, that can be smoked, and users and researchers say it produces a high that eclipses the psychedelic properties of LSD. (Just imagine the effect that toad jokes would have had on the culture of the '60s.) And yes, it's illegal. ``Toke a toad, go to jail,'' suggest some wags. "What is the human race going to do next? Grind up clarinets and smoke them?" asked Calaveras County narcotics agent Greg Elam. After the arrest of a couple on charges of possessing bufotenine from four toads, state and local narcotics agents worried that there was a cult of toad abusers in the region. They've determined that's not the case. But literature confiscated from the couple's house indicates there is an underground of enthusiasts for the drug, agents said.
"It's a bizarre case,'' said Matt Campoy, commander of the drug task force in Calaveras County 110 miles east of San Francisco.
Scientific journals trace use of the drug to ancient times. In the 1950s, the Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency supported research on bufotenine as part of efforts to develop brainwashing agents, according to the August 1990 Scientific American. Laws against its use in the United States date to the late 1960s. But the task force was unable to find records that anyone else had actually been arrested for possessing it. Unrelated laws bar possession of the toads themselves, since their numbers are dwindling. Ironically, the arrests came in a region known not for toads but for frogs. A short story by Twain, ``The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,'' inspired the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee, which marked its 65th year in 1993 and draws participants from throughout the nation.
Bob and Connie Shepard are scheduled for arraignment next month on charges of possessing the drug. Shepard, 41, a former teacher and Explorer Scout leader, and his 37-year-old wife said they did not wish to talk to a reporter. But Shepard, also a former volunteer with the Calaveras County sheriff's search-and-rescue squad, told agents that he captured the four toads in southern Arizona.
Agents quoted him as saying he got so high from the drug he could "hear electrons jumping orbitals in his molecules."
Authorities moved in when they heard Sheppard had taken the toads to a school district learning center, where he was an instructor. Agents feared children might be affected. Some criticize authorities for pursuing the case. ``Here we've got murderers in the streets and we've got police going after people catching toads,'' said Dale Gieringer of the California Drug Policy Reform Coalition. ``This is victimless consensual crime. This is personal exploration of consciousness. It's something that should be a basic constitutional right.''
An Associated Press story printed in the San Jose Mercury News, Sunday
20 February 1994, p. 3B.
NARCOTICS AGENTS ON HUNT FOR DRUG-SECRETING TOADS
Bufo alvarius steals spotlight from Calaveras jumping frogs
Angels Camp- The war on frogs has moved into Mark Twain's frog-jumping territory, and it's not pretty. The drug carriers are green, squat, and lumpy, with big bulging eyes. That's not a description of some comic strip villain. These are toads Bufo alvarius. The creatures secrete venom that is dried and smoked. Users and researchers say the hallucinogenic toad drug, bufotenine, produces a high that eclipses LSD's.
One couple was arrested recently on charges of possessing bufotenine from four toads. Narcotics agents determined there was not a cult of bufotenine abusers in the region, but literature from the couple's house showed there was an underground of enthusiasts for the drug.
The couple told agents they obtained detailed directions on how to find and use the drug by writing for a pamphlet. "What is the human race going to do next? Grind up clarinets and smoke them?" asked Calaveras County narcotics agent Greg Elam, who headed the investigation. Authorities have been criticized for pursuing the case. "Here we've got murderers in the streets and we've got police going after people catching toads," said Dale Gieringer of the California Drug Policy Reform Coalition.
Agents from a task force of state and local drug agents based at a Calaveras County shopping center received tips that led to the arrests. "It's a bizarre case," said Matt Campoy, commander of the task force. Scientific journals trace abuse of the drug to ancient times and laws against it in the United States to the late 1960s. But the task force was unable to find records that anyone had ever been arrested for possessing the drug.
Unrelated environmental laws bar possession of the toads. Ironically, the arrests came in a region rich for its history of the toad's cousin, the frog. A short story by Twain inspired the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee. Bob and Connie Shepard are scheduled for arraignment next month on charges of possessing the drug. Bob Shepard, a 41-year-old former teacher and Explorer Scout leader told agents he captured the four toads in southern Arizona and kept them at his home. Agents quoted him as saying that he got so high from the drug he could "hear electrons jumping orbitals in his molecules."
1 Feb 94:
(SONORA)- An Explorer Scout leader and his wife have been arraigned on drug possession charges after he admitted smoking hallucinogenic venom extracted from rare toads. Bob and Connie Shepard... teachers at a public school-sponsored nature camp... each face up to 15 years in prison if convicted of possessing bufotenine, a hallucinogenic chemical believed to be the psychoactive agent in toad venom, and other controlled substances.
Tuolemne County prosecutor Jim Boscoe said venom is produced by glands behind each eye of the Colorado River toad, and is said to produce an intense psychedelic high. Users squeeze the venom from the glands and dry it before smoking it. The seized toads are currently living in the offices of the combined drug task force of Alpine, Calaveras and Tuolomne counties, across the street from the Calaveras County Fair made famous by a Mark Twain story about a frog jumping competition.