Drug Tests: Breaking Bad in real life

Taiwan is, sadly, a country which still has state sponsored murder (aka the “death penalty”) but usually it is only committed against hard-to-defend cases (i.e. the 2014 subway slasher who murdered four people).  Killing prisoners involved in the drug trade is still on the books, but I don’t know of any cases where it happened.

Recently, “Breaking Bad” turned real life.  A university assistant professor named Zhang was arrested for doing drug purity tests for a Taiwan gang on university property.  He even had his students running the tests.  (The students did not know what the substance involved was, so they have been cleared of any wrongdoing.)

Zhang lost money on a business venture and was heavily in debt.  He made the mistake of listening to criminal gangs instead of accepting the losses and facing much less severe consequences than what he’s facing now.  Even if he gets out of prison, who would hire him?  He’s thrown everything away.

Breaking Bad: chemistry prof used university lab, students, to operate “one-stop test shop” for Taiwanese drug syndicate

An assistant professor and post-doctoral researcher has been prosecuted for using a university chemistry laboratory with advanced equipment, and having students unknowingly assist in testing imported and locally manufactured illicit drugs for purity, on behalf of a Taiwanese narcotrafficker.

Zhang Enming (張恩銘), 44, was charged by the Taipei District Prosecutor’s Office for manufacturing category 3 drugs and other crimes following an investigation into a drug manufacturing operation uncovered in Yilan County in early 2021.

According to reports, Zhang, a former postdoctoral researcher the the Genomic Research Center at Academia Sinica, was involved with a cleaning detergent business in China, and became indebted for the amount of RMB400,000 (NT$1.82 million).

Information about the debt was passed on to the head of a Taiwanese drug syndicate, Xiao Guangzhe, who then approached Zhang, and suggested he help with testing drug purity to help pay off his debt.

On the other end of things, in the face of growing public sentiment for the legalization of marijuana, Taiwan’s government has greatly reduced the penalty for individual possession of marijuana (non-distribution), to a minimum of one year in prison from five.

Great.  More dolts growing and smoking that crap and making everyone else stink of it because there’s less risk if they’re caught.

Taiwan reduces jail penalty for growing marijuana for personal use

Taiwan’s Legislature passed a law amendment on Tuesday to reduce the penalty for growing marijuana for personal use from a minimum sentence of five years’ imprisonment to one year, and a maximum of seven years.

The amendment, which cleared the legislative floor without objections among lawmakers who were present, was proposed by the Cabinet that recommended that penalties match the gravity of the crime in growing marijuana, also called cannabis.

Under the existing Narcotics Hazard Prevention Act, those found guilty of cultivating cannabis with the intention of supplying it for use as a narcotic face a minimum of five years imprisonment, and may be fined up to NT$5 million (US$171,000).

On March 11, 2021, the Cabinet approved a proposal to revise the act with a new article that stipulates that those found guilty of growing cannabis for personal use should be punished with imprisonment ranging from one to seven years, and may be fined up to NT$1 million.

I’ve never touched it, never will.  I hate the smell.

Then again, maybe that “teacher” from 2018 might still be alive.


  1. moarscienceplz says

    “The students did not know what the substance involved was, so they have been cleared of any wrongdoing.”
    I find this a little tough to believe. Of course modern labs use a computerized spectrometer that would display the actual names of the chemicals in the sample, so they couldn’t be doing that. So they are doing old-fashioned titrations. Undoubtedly the prof told his students, “We are going to practice titrating now, so take 100 mg of the substance in this vial labeled A, dissolve it in 10 ml of acetone and titrate it into this reageant I made for you in this bottle labeled B, using phenolphthalein as your indicator and give me your numbers.” And they probably went along with it for the first 10 or so times. But these are chemistry students. At some point they should start to wonder why they are doing the same procedure so many times over and getting pretty similar numbers each time. What exact chemicals has the prof given them to work with? At least some of the students would start trying to investigate this. Maybe the prof only used first year students, who should be capable of doing titrations without having the knowlege to go further, but still, there’s always a Hermione Grainger in each class who read ahead in the textbooks and wants to ask some uncomfortable questions.