Deadly But Legal: Poison On The Web


Investigators describe an almost Shakespearean tragedy. As CBS News Correspondent Joie Chen reports, popular high school senior Benjamin Vassiliev was allegedly poisoned by a friend who viewed the victim as a rival for a girl's affections.

But police say 18-year-old Ryan Furlough obtained the cyanide he used to kill his friend from a very modern source.

"Apparently this young man was able to obtain them over the Internet. So they are not illegal. They are used for things like rat poison and other things," explains Sherry Llewellyn, Howard County Police spokesperson.

Vassiliev was allegedly poisoned at Furlough's home, where he drank a Vanilla Coke spiked with cyanide, police say.

The suspect told police he used his "mother's credit card" and the "internet" to buy a small amount of potassium cyanide from a chemical supplier in Kentucky.

The company's motto: "We sell any amount of any chemical to industry, to schools and to individuals."

And there's nothing illegal about buying cyanide -- or other potentially lethal chemicals this way.

But some insist there is no constitutional right to buy poisons and call for a review of how dangerous chemicals are bought and sold.

"The key factor is that at some level, it is ridiculous that somebody on this simple a pretext can buy a dangeorus poison," Jim Dempsey of the Center for Democracy and Freedom tells Chen.

Readily available chemicals have been used in terror attacks before.

Timothy McVeigh's truck packed full of farm fertilizer changed lives and the landscape in Oklahoma City forever and no one was ever arrested for contaminating Tylenol bottles with cyanide.

But scientists point out that hundreds of chemicals like those used in pesticides, detergents, and even the family car could also be used to kill. How to restrict access to those potential poisons is a little like trying to put the cap back on after the genie is out of the bottle.