It's not exactly a question most lovers hope to inspire: Is that a wart in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?
And it's most certainly not a question you want to hear from the police officer who's just pulled you over for speeding. In the case of a traffic stop in Chesterfield County more than a year ago, the driver was not happy to see the officer in question, who found no wart when he searched the driver's car.
Instead, the officer happened upon a thumb-sized black rock, nicknamed a Love Stone. Derived from toad venom (or a venomous toad's dried sexual organ if you believe some Web sites), it's used as an aphrodisiac by people who don't mind rubbing toad sweat on their nether regions.
The rock, banned in the United States in 1967, is a schedule 1 controlled substance, which lumps it in the same class of drug offenses as heroin possession.
The Chesterfield traffic stop inspired a year-long investigation that involved the Food and Drug Administration in the Washington area, and led to the arrest of Donna Bryant Woo, identified by Virginia State Police as an owner of Devine Magic and Novelties, an eclectic shop at 5409 Lakeside Ave. Woo apparently sold the rock to the hapless Chesterfield driver.
"During the course of the investigation, we discovered [the Love Stone] was being sold," state police spokeswoman Deborah Cox says. "My understanding is it's a hallucinogenic. It's applied topically."
Woo's Henrico County store sells such wide-ranging supplies as healing crystals, medieval replica weapons and playing cards decorated with tasteful nudie pinups. Police charged her with distribution of a schedule 1 controlled substance, to which she pleaded guilty in March.
According to medical literature, there's debate on whether the Love Stone — known as bufotenine to less romantically inclined scientists — is either a hallucinogen or an aphrodisiac. All agree is that it can kill, as it's done four times in New York since 1993 — most recently in May.
But what is also debated — at least by the folks at Devine Magic and Novelties — is whether Love Stone's illegal status is widely known. Contacted for comment at the store, Woo quickly passes the phone to a man who declines to identify himself.
"They made a big issue and made us an example, that's it," the man says. "We bought it from retailers. There are other places [in town] where you can still buy it off the shelf. We got caught up in something that the government doesn't tell you when they ban stuff from other countries that's been on the shelf since I was a kid."
"I cooperated with them and they just hammered the hell out of me," the man says. "I'm just a small magic shop — sponge balls and rabbits out of the hat. This is killing me, man."