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August 04, 2005

Sell Sudafed, Go to Jail

There is a Simpsons episode here, but not a very funny one:

When they charged 49 convenience store clerks and owners in rural northwest Georgia with selling materials used to make methamphetamine, federal prosecutors declared that they had conclusive evidence...But weeks of court motions have produced many questions. Forty-four of the defendants are Indian immigrants - 32, mostly unrelated, are named Patel - and many spoke little more than the kind of transactional English mocked in sitcoms.
We aren't talking about traditional prescription drugs, but things like Sudafed.

Part of the prosecutors' case is that drugs so permeate our culture that even immigrant clerks would recognize drug slang like doing "a cook."

But if misunderstanding may be fueling the prosecution of these South Asian immigrants, the language problem is mutual. Rural Georgians apparently think Patel -- the surname of many of the defendants -- means "hotel" in Hindi.

Cross Prohibition with cultural ignorance and you get a pretty toxic, stupid stew.

Posted by Nathan at August 4, 2005 07:22 AM