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Proposal to make ecstasy sentencing harsher than heroin
March 21, 2001 9:37 PM   Subscribe

Proposal to make ecstasy sentencing harsher than heroin passed despite opposition from the Federation of American Scientists (Acrobat req'd). One of these opponents from the Federation served as Nixon's drug czar. Why is the government so hard on ecstasy? What effect will this have on the drug war in general? And is this anything but an empty (but harmful) political move?
posted by pikachulolita (25 comments total)

 
This is a sentencing problem, not a drug problem. Sentencing should be left up to judges and juries on a case-by-case basis, not decided by Washington bureaucrats before the crimes are even committed. Each case is different.
posted by aaron at 10:14 PM on March 21, 2001


whoa, I was just flipping channels and caught a raver on CSPAN talking to congressmen (he was captioned as "former estacy user"). It all makes sense now.
posted by mathowie at 10:43 PM on March 21, 2001


Logic has long been absent from Washington's drug policy. Education is the best weapon, for those on both sides of the drug war.
posted by Loudmax at 1:32 AM on March 22, 2001


yeah, but isn't this especially illogical, though? 1 dose of e = 800 joints = 10 doses of heroin now. i just can't wrap my mind around this one.
posted by pikachulolita at 7:11 AM on March 22, 2001


Maybe we should just institute the death penalty for all convicted drug users. That would certainly stop the problem of neverending recidivism.
posted by daveadams at 7:13 AM on March 22, 2001


Steven Baum pointed out that the Vietnam on Drugs has cost the US $694 billion over the last ten years. You do the sums.

But (shock horror!) I'm totally with aaron here: sentencing is the remit of the judiciary, and shouldn't be subject to a political bidding war. Since when did that "separation of powers" thing not apply?
posted by holgate at 8:13 AM on March 22, 2001


When the SANITY and MORALS or our nations CHILDREN are at stake!
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:16 AM on March 22, 2001


Until law makers start taking drugs they will continue to promote ridiculous drug policies that continue to fail, year after year.

The problem is that they get into to an "us vs them" mind set. They feel drug users are bad/stupid/lazy.

Since our last two presidents were drug users you'd think that people in DC could understand that drug use has nothing to do with a persons ability to lead a productive and successful life.

If the president can use and sell cocaine why are we being so tough on kids who use ecstasy?
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:24 AM on March 22, 2001


Until law makers start taking drugs

I would bet they fall right in line with the rest of the country when it comes to statistics on drug use. As I've pointed out before, the drug war is not a holy war waged by the righteous on us sinners, but a strategic effort to maintain political and economic control over the domestic population and foreign governments.
posted by sudama at 9:12 AM on March 22, 2001


After realizing for myself what this drug can do (I took it for the first time last Saturday and after three days of exhaustion and some dxm, ended up in the mental ward of a hospital for a week, I can see why they are cracking down on it.

I think this drug frees people in certain ways, and that's why it's so dangerous.

Everyone I talked to at the hospital that knew that I took ecstasy told me that it killed people. As in, directly. The word from authority is that it must be stopped. And I can see why.

For what it's worth, my experience was both profoundly negative and profoundly positive - being in a mental ward isn't exactly fun, but I learned a lot, and I learned a lot from the people there. If I hadn't been stupid and gotten exhausted and so on, my whole bizarre delusional thing (anybody see me at the end of sxsw? It was pretty funny, in retrospect, the weird stuff I was doing...) might not have happened, but I can't know for sure.

Anyway, be really fucking careful if you do this drug. It can flip your lid (when in combo with dxm), cause you harm, and cause you to get yourself in Big Fucking Trouble. Prison is one form of Big Fucking Trouble, one I personally want to steer very clear of.
posted by beth at 11:08 AM on March 22, 2001


DXM eats holes in your brain. You shouldn't take it alone, much less in combination with ecstasy. People telling you ecstasy kills are at best misinformed, at worst lying to you.
posted by sudama at 11:18 AM on March 22, 2001


If only you could trade one pill of x for 800 joints. Now that's a cheap bag.
posted by snakey at 1:15 PM on March 22, 2001


sudama is correct. DXM was likely the cause of your problems. MDMA (the compound known as ecstasy), while questionable on its long term-effects, is not known to cause immediate harm to the user. (Unless it is combined with a more dangerous substance like DXM or methamphetamines--which it seldom is.)
posted by brittney at 2:09 PM on March 22, 2001


I'm don't know if DXM presents a thread of immediate harm, but it acts as a dissociative by itself -- plenty capable of flipping your lid, removing it altogether, and so on.
posted by sudama at 2:13 PM on March 22, 2001


blah blah criminalisation blah no control on purity blah fuck-all real E on the streets in the US anyway blah.

DanceSafe. Test your pills. Don't mix drugs. Be careful out there.
posted by holgate at 2:36 PM on March 22, 2001


Gosh, I feel like such a naive kid. Never heard of DXM. E however, is one of the most amazing drugs I've ever had (next to Life and Hugs...ugh). Beth, I've never heard of anyone having problems like that on E.
posted by fooljay at 3:22 PM on March 22, 2001


What a salutary effect Traffic has had on our drug policies. Huzzah!

I'm not an expert, but apparently we should always mentally replace "Ecstasy can kill you" with the phrase "Ecstasy could actually be something else that can kill you".
posted by dhartung at 3:25 PM on March 22, 2001


There reason this is happening is because mdma is everyone's favourite party drug at the moment.
posted by Zool at 3:39 PM on March 22, 2001


Fucking despots.
posted by Mars Saxman at 4:57 PM on March 22, 2001


Is DXM illegal in the US? I keep hearing about a certain cough medicine sold in the US which contains DXM.
posted by Zool at 6:51 PM on March 22, 2001


DXM is dextromethorphan, which is the cough suppressant found in most over-the-counter preparations. More here. As for E, my experience with that drug goes back to the mid '80s, when it went from legal to Schedule I status in the space of a few years. Early on, we got ours from my friend's sister, who was a flight attendant. She would get it legally in Dallas and Atlanta, where some dance clubs sold it in bubblegum machines, for a 5 or 10 dollar token. I never had a problem with it, other than feeling like complete shit the next day. I haven't taken it in well over ten years. I would advise caution, since there is a very high probability that what you get now is at best impure and at worst poison. This probability will increase as the penalties for producing or selling it become more severe. In the case of pure MDMA, my gut feeling is that high dosages or prolonged use can damage serotonin function in the brain, possibly leading to chronic depression or other psychological problems. In college, my best friend's roommate attempted suicide after a 3-day bender. I consider that a pretty extreme case, but it does indicate that the drug is not harmless. I'm not here to preach, but if if you do take Ecstasy I recommend that you educate yourself, be careful, and exercise moderation. In fact, those are those are good principles for most any situation.
posted by gimli at 9:39 PM on March 22, 2001


It may cause stuttering, too. ; )
posted by gimli at 9:43 PM on March 22, 2001


Beth, I just did a bit of reading that suggested that mixing MDMA and DXM can result in Serotonin Syndrome, which is a condition more commonly brought on by mixing different types of antidepressants. Here are the symptoms:

"The symptoms of the serotonin syndrome are: euphoria, drowsiness, sustained rapid eye movement, overreaction of the reflexes, rapid muscle contraction and relaxation in the ankle causing abnormal movements of the foot, clumsiness, restlessness, feeling drunk and dizzy, muscle contraction and relaxation in the jaw, sweating, intoxication, muscle twitching, rigidity, high body temperature, mental status changes were frequent (including confusion and hypomania - a "happy drunk" state), shivering, diarrhea, loss of consciousness and death. (The Serotonin Syndrome, AM J PSYCHIATRY, June 1991)

I'm glad to see that you survived the ordeal.
posted by gimli at 10:29 PM on March 22, 2001


Well at least there's no anal leakage... (NOTE: Don't bother clicking if you're squeamish...)

There's an article on Salon by a writer who sounds like she had the same sort of (possibly DXM/Ecstasy-driven) reaction you did, Beth.

The New York Times Magazine ran an article (for you non-subscribers try this) details the good and bad sides of Ecstasy. A very even-handed realistic piece in a world of sensationalism.

This quote from a Time article underscores why the reactionaries are clamoring for harser penalties:
"Ecstasy remains a niche drug. The number of people who use it once a month remains so small--less than 1% of the population--that ecstasy use doesn't register in the government's drug survey. (By comparison, 5% of Americans older than 12 say they use marijuana once a month, and 1.8% use cocaine.) But ecstasy use is growing. Eight percent of U.S. high school seniors say they have tried it at least once, up from 5.8% in 1997; teen use of most other drugs declined in the late '90s. Nationwide, customs officers have already seized more ecstasy this fiscal year, more than 5.4 million hits, than in all of last year. In 1998 they seized just 750,000 hits.

According to the article above, legislation to crack down on Ecstasy goes all the way back to June of last year when "two Senators, Bob Graham of Florida and Charles Grassley of Iowa, introduced an ecstasy antiproliferation bill, which would stiffen penalties for trafficking in the drug. Under the new law, someone caught selling about 100 hits of ecstasy could be charged as a drug trafficker; current law sets the threshold at about 300,000 pills.

You know what? Screw the penalties. Legalise it. The government would make beau coup tax dollars and yet the price would probably go down due to eliminated risk of production and dedicated facilities for mass production. More importantly, the impurity issue (the real danger from any one dose of this drug) would be moot. Of course, if it were totally legal, we'd probably be able to reduce the world's defense budgets and reroute those funds into building better societies, but I'm an idealist, so what do I know...
posted by fooljay at 1:08 PM on March 23, 2001


The Salon article parallels my experience very closely, with the exception of the DXM. For quite a while, whenever we were at a party or seeing a band or whatever, my friends and I would say, "Man, this is great, but I wish we had some X!" (we usually called it X, not E) Things didn't feel as fun or as thrilling as they did before we had started using it. We would occasionally talk about it, and most of my friends just shrugged and chalked it up to the fact that nothing is as fun as when you do it on Ecstasy, so it just seems less fun by comparison. After a while, I became convinced that there was more to it than that. There wasn't much good research to refer to back then, but some animal studies were suggesting damage to brain cells responsible for serotonin production and transport. Today, PET scans of live subjects show that similar damage occurs in humans, though there is disagreement on whether the damage is permanent or not. Many studies point to memory problems, but I never noticed that effect. I was in college and did well, then went on to grad school. I decided that the drug was causing mild to moderate depression and quit taking it. I missed the good times, but felt that I had made the right choice.
posted by gimli at 2:53 PM on March 23, 2001


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