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[Welcome to Mercury Center] [Day Two] [Dark Alliance] Frames: [ Enable | Disable ] Drug expert: 'Crack' born in San Francisco Bay Area in '74 It was a failed attempt to copy something else Published: Aug. 19, 1996 [Other stories] BY GARY WEBB Shadowy Mercury News Staff Writer origins of 'crack' THOUGH MIAMI AND LOS ANGELES are commonly regarded as the epidemic twin cradles of ''crack'' cocaine, the first Role of government-financed study of cocaine smoking concluded CIA-linked that it was actually born here, in the San Francisco Bay agents a Area, in January 1974. well-protected secret until After comedian Richard Pryor nearly immolated himself now during a cocaine-smoking binge in 1980, the National Institute on Drug Abuse hired UCLA drug expert Ronald K. San Siegel to look into the then-unfamiliar practice. Siegel, Francisco the first scientist to document crack's use in the United agent States, traced the smoking habit back to 1930, when thought she Colombians first started it. was onto something Translation problem big Meneses' But what was being smoked south of the border -- a trail was paste-like substance called basť (bah-SAY) -- was very getting warm different from what Californians were putting in their when her pipes, Siegel found, even though they called it the same superiors thing: free base. took her off the case Basť was a crude, toxics-laden precursor to cocaine powder. On the other hand, free base (which later became known as crack or rock), was cocaine powder that had been reverse-engineered to make it smokable. When Bay Area dealers tried recreating the drug they'd seen in South America, Siegel learned, they'd screwed up. ''When they looked it up in the Merck Manual, they saw cocaine base and thought, well, yeah, this is it,'' Siegel, a nationally known drug researcher, said in an interview. ''They mispronounced it, misunderstood the Spanish, and thought (basť) was cocaine base.'' Unintentional success The base described in the organic chemistry handbook was cocaine powder separated from its salts, a process easily done with boiling water and baking soda. It was an immediate, if unintentional, hit. ''They were wowed by it,'' Siegel said. ''They thought they were smoking basť. They were not. They were smoking something nobody on the planet had ever smoked before.'' Using the sales records of several major drug [web link] paraphernalia companies, Siegel correlated crack's public appearance with the appearance of base-making kits and Pictures of glass pipes for smoking it. The sales records zeroed in crack on the Bay Area. cocaine Study never published ''We were able to show to our satisfaction that they were directly responsible for distributing the habit throughout the United States. Wherever they were selling their kits, that's where we started getting the clinical reports,'' Siegel said. ''It all started in Northern California.'' His groundbreaking study was never published by the government, purportedly for budgetary reasons. Siegel, who said he grew concerned that the information would not be made available to other researchers, published it himself in an obscure medical journal in late 1982. TUESDAY: The impact of the crack epidemic on the black community, and why justice hasn't been for all. ------------------------------------------------------------------------- Go to: Home | Dark Alliance: --------------------------------------------------------------------------- [Click here for Microsoft Windows 95] | Mercury Center Home | Index | Feedback | NewsLibrary | ©1996 Mercury Center. The information you receive on-line from Mercury Center is protected by the copyright laws of the United States. The copyright laws prohibit any copying, redistributing, retransmitting, or repurposing of any copyright-protected material.


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