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Almost ludicrous: Can something like this really happen in America?

Gale Griffin has long had a strong attraction for baking soda.

And, actually, so do millions of other people. There are myriad reasons for the product's longstanding popularity. You can cook with it. It cleans soiled carpets. Heck, legions of people brush their teeth with it. And it's cheap.

A recent experience -- let's just call it memorable -- has likely dulled Griffin's propensity for using the product as a go-to substance, though. We think our readers in North Carolina and elsewhere will understand why and, even though they don't know Griffin and her husband Wendall Harvey, would probably empathize immediately with them and probably even want to give them a hug.

Here's why, in a nutshell: Police tested baking soda taken from the commercial truck that the couple drives professionally as highly trained haulers for military explosives (a job that, coincidentally, demands a singularly high security clearance). After using a $2 kit (yes, you read that right -- two bucks) that is widely in use by law enforcers across the country, the cops deemed that the truckers were in possession of a substantial amount of cocaine.

That assessment obviously didn't equate to anything positive for Griffin and Harvey, who, understandably, professed their innocence and were shaken to their core by what turned out to be a nightmarish experience.

To wit: The couple spent a full two months locked up in an Arkansas jail before a proper narcotics test administered in a sophisticated lab revealed the truth: the alleged baking soda was, well, baking soda.

"I felt like I was somewhere that didn't feel like America," said Harvey in the wake of his experience.

"We both didn't think we were going to get out at all," stated Griffin.

What rendered the matter even more egregious was the fact that state authorities had impounded their truck. It took two months following their release to get it back. They say it was damaged.

So, too, they contend, are their professional reputations. They lost their jobs and their vaunted security clearances.

Truly, theirs is a tale of woe, and something that every American might reasonably rue and puzzle over.

The cheap narcotics kit is known to produce so-called "false positives."

Given the potential downside of that for human liberty, why would police departments even use it?

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