jclcover1.jpg (10972 bytes)
Click cover to learn about our print publication

 

A Report on the DEA’s
National Ecstasy & Club Drugs Conference
held on July 31- August 2, 2000

 

On Monday, July 31, 2000, through Wednesday, August 2, 2000, the DEA held a “National Ecstasy & Club Drugs Conference” in Washington, D.C. for the purpose of providing information on MDMA (Ecstasy) to local, state, federal, and international law enforcement agents.

 

This report is a detailed summary of that conference. 

 

Richard Fianno, Chief of Operations for the DEA, opened the National Ecstasy & Club Drugs Conference stating that every city in the United States has experienced some rise in Ecstasy use over the last several years. One problem with this, he said, was that Ecstasy causes biochemical changes:

The kids believe that Ecstasy is safe, they enjoy the rave experience, but actually what is happening is that over the next couple of days after taking Ecstasy their brain cells are actually being programmed to die.

Fianno’s comment was a blueprint for much of the conference, as one speaker after another used the following schema for their talk: (1) Ecstasy is a problem because kids and parents think it is perfectly safe or benign. (2) But, official NIDA-endorsed studies have proven that Ecstasy is not safe. (3) Thus, law enforcement must stop the inflow of this drug into the US and reduce demand for the drug by educating people that Ecstasy is not safe.

This schema was a straw man. Users of Ecstasy are undoubtedly aware that they are taking an illicit synthetic drug – and this very fact makes it unlikely that anyone taking Ecstasy thinks that it is entirely safe. No drug is entirely safe, especially one which is made in underground labs and/or purchased or obtained from an unknown, untested, source.

This schema employs sweeping premises that disingenuously assert that the DEA’s principal concern is that people be made aware of the possible neurotoxicity and other potentially negative effects of using MDMA. If the DEA were truly interested in reducing the harms associated with Ecstasy, it would—at the very least—endorse and employ a harm reduction model rather than a criminal prohibition model.

The fact of the matter is that a person is a criminal for using MDMA, even if that person is well informed of the potential dangers and, knowing those dangers, has decided that the potential benefits of occasional use outweigh the potential harms. So long as the DEA continues to condescend to MDMA users by arguing that they are ignorant of the dangers of using MDMA, rather than acknowledging that many, if not most, users are aware of the risks and yet believe those risks are worth taking on occasion, the DEA’s efforts are doomed to meet with intense resistance and ultimate failure.

Likewise, until national drug policy comes to terms with the fact that people have a natural attraction to experience multiple modes of consciousness, beyond those produced by drugs such as alcohol and nicotine, the government’s resources will be misdirected from providing valuable harm reduction information, prisons will continue to overcrowd, taking money away from schools, and organized crime and corruption will prosper. Apparently we learned absolutely nothing from the catastrophic failures of Alcohol Prohibition.

Fianno kicked things off at the conference by showing a DEA-produced video that featured several of the people who would later speak at the conference.

Donnie Marshall, Administrator of the DEA, stated (on the video):

I think it is safe to say that the rapidly expanding use of these club drugs by young people is one of the most startling law enforcement and social issues facing the United States in the early part of the 21st Century… One of the major difficulties in combating these drugs is that the users believe – they truly believe—that unlike crack or heroin, club drugs are harmless. Something that researchers increasingly show to be tragically and sometimes fatally untrue. …DEA … is using a multifaceted approach, enforcement and prevention to confront this growing danger.

This video was really quite a spectacle as it combined techno rave-style music, flashing lights and quick edits, with an old-fashioned 1950s-style narrator common to government anti-drug films of previous decades.

One DEA agent from New York stated on the video:

We have not seen street distribution of this drug. Primarily, it is sold inside the clubs. So one of the challenges is to get inside these rave clubs were actual distribution of this drug is taking place. Also, the greater challenge, where we operate at peak efficiency is to identify the leaders of these organizations that are responsible for the manufacture, importation, and distribution of this drug in the United States.

The narrator noted that Sammy “The Bull” Gravano was involved in the Ecstasy trade and was busted by the DEA. Involvement by Gravano, said the narrator, shows the sophistication of the international Ecstasy trade, which now involves organized crime. Again, the glaring analogy to Alcohol Prohibition passed by without recognition.

The video noted that in May of this year legislation was proposed that would increase the penalties for MDMA offenses, and that Congress held hearings on MDMA in June. For more information about these bills and the June hearing on Ecstasy, visit the Web site for the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics at http://www.cognitiveliberty.org/ecstasybill.htm.

Other “club drugs” were quickly mentioned in the video: GHB, Rohypnol, methamphetamine, and ketamine. Shifting into a dropped tone for emphasis, the narrator cautioned:

 … and of course there’s always LSD and PCP. All these club drugs are taken alone, in combination with each other, in combination with different drugs, or alcohol. They have become so deeply integrated in the club scene that their use appears completely normal, so normal that there no longer seems to be any attempt to conceal them.

Dr. David Gavin, from the DEA’s Department of Diversion Control, stated on the video:

Lately raves are just a venue for drug purchases. They are no more than analogous to a crack house in which you go, buy the drugs, and go out the back door.

The video’s narrator stated that Ecstasy use is on the rise, noting that from 1998-1999 “past year use” rose 33% for 10th graders and 56% for 12th graders. “But the largest category of ‘club drug abusers’ consists of 18- 25 year olds. There are almost 1.5 million of them.”

The video ended with the narrator again claiming that most people who use “club drugs” believe they are harmless, when in fact using club drugs is the opposite of harmless:

[Taking club drugs (narrator’s voice drops an octave for emphasis)]
is “dancing with darkness.” 

After the video, DEA Administrator Donnie Marshall addressed the attendees. Administrator Marshall said that he believes that Ecstasy and club drug use is “one of the major issues facing US law enforcement today.” He stressed that the DEA is depending on local and international law enforcement agencies to partner with them to combat what he called a “terrifying new challenge to law enforcement.” Ecstasy, he said, was an international problem.

Marshall stated that his 30 years of experience in drug enforcement convinces him that you can’t completely eradicate a drug. So, part of the club drug crackdown must be directed at getting information out about the dangers of these drugs. Administrator Marshall commented that parents think raves are safe because they are often promoted as alcohol free events. Marshall said that if a 13-year-old girl comes home and tells her mom that she’s going to spend the evening at a crack house the mother would never let her go, but if the daughter tells her mom he’s going with her friends to a rave, the mother might allow it. Parents aren’t informed about what happens at raves, said Marshall.

Marshall told the attendees that law enforcement needs to explore the whole culture of the “club drug scene.” Law enforcement, he said, needs to understand the scene in order to understand the ‘lure of Ecstasy.” At the same time, however, Marshall cautioned that perhaps law enforcement was giving too much attention to the rave scene and thus, perhaps, missing other important sites of Ecstasy use.

Administrator Marshall stated that the June 5, Time magazine article on Ecstasy (see http://www.maps.org/research/mdma/time.html) was detrimental to law enforcement because, he said, it portrayed Ecstasy as “relatively harmless.” He recalled a Newsweek article in 1977 that portrayed cocaine as a nonaddictive drug that causes no withdrawal, and probably causes no significant mental or physical damage. Yet scientists later proved that cocaine was addictive and damaging. He told the attendees that the same sort of thing was happening with Ecstasy.

Next to address the conference attendees was US Customs Service Commissioner Raymond Kelly. Like Marshall, Kelly emphasized that combating Ecstasy requires cooperation between various law enforcement agencies: DEA, Customs, FBI, local law enforcement, and other countries.

He mentioned several large Ecstasy busts recently made by Customs, DEA, and the FBI. Kelly explained that Customs has created its own internal Ecstasy Task Force. They meet every morning to discuss how to stop the inflow of Ecstasy. He encouraged other law enforcement agencies to form similar internal Ecstasy task forces. He reiterated that US Customs has agents inside the Federal Express hub in Memphis, has deployed Ecstasy sniffing drug detection dogs, and has agents in Amsterdam to “access the situation in the primary source country.” He said that US Customs was working to bolster its relationship with Dutch police.

After explaining how the Ecstasy trade was sophisticated and that millions of dollars were being made, Kelly shifted his attention to what he called the “apologists for Ecstasy use.” Kelly said:

[The traffickers in Ecstasy] are also abetted by less obvious quarters. These are the apologists for Ecstasy use. They argue, quite ignorantly, that Ecstasy is harmless. Their glowing tributes to Ecstasy are reminiscent of Timothy Leary in the early, equally ignorant, veneration of LSD. Some of these apologists include social scientists and others in the so-called “harm reduction” movement, who claim that the real harm is not caused by the drugs and their pushers, but by the laws designed to curtail them. Besides turning logic on its head, this kind of propaganda has given rise to a myth that American law enforcements is out to criminalize the harmless experimental behavior of a whole generation of young Americans. The fact is, we’re trying to protect young people – teenagers in particular. … We’re not out to jail teenagers who make the mistake of experimenting with Ecstasy. We’re out to jail the traffickers and their partners in crime…This is the message that American law enforcement has to get out in the face of gross distortions about Ecstasy and the so-called harm reduction movement.

Commissioner Kelly said that harm reduction advocates were “heavy on theory but light on reality.”

Kelly failed to mention that one of the provisions in the Ecstasy Anti-Proliferation Act of 2000, which is currently being considered by the Senate, would jeopardize young people (and others) by threatening to ban information that might help reduce some of the harms associated with using Ecstasy.  See www.cognitiveliberty.org/ecstasybill.htm for more information about this bill. Clearly, such a law can only increase the harm associated with Ecstasy. Thus, it is disingenuous for DEA or Customs to, on the one hand, try and disparage harm reduction advocates, all the while claiming that DEA is just “trying to protect young people.”

Kelly said that law enforcement has a dual mission with respect to Ecstasy: (1) disrupt the flow of Ecstasy and bring traffickers to justice; and (2) convey the message to public that “Ecstasy is dangerous.” He then said:

... and dangerous people are trying to convince our children to use it.” Again, alluding to (and mischaracterizing) groups which seek drug policy reform, he noted, “we also have to remind some people of what could not be more obvious: that is, we are the good guys in this fight, and the traffickers are the bad guys. No amount of posturing, in academia or anywhere else, can change that.

Dr. Alan Leshner, Director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) was the next speaker. He began with a slide show about how various drugs act within the brain. He compared the current period of MDMA knowledge to the early years of LSD use. Leshner told the attendees:

Remember when LSD was cast everywhere as, you know, a great psychotherapeutic agent and it was terrific, and it gave you deep insight into everything that was happening in your life and OOOPS, low and behold we discovered that it’s not so good for your brain. Well, not dissimilarly, we now are experiencing the early phase of that with Ecstasy.

It was shocking to hear Leshner – the Director of NIDA – imply that LSD was proven to cause some sort of brain damage. LSD is a potent psychoactive chemical, so it is no surprise that people who are unprepared for the experience, or people who take LSD harboring a mental instability can become profoundly confused. But, no reliable studies of LSD have concluded that the drug can cause brain damage. For the Director of NIDA to imply otherwise is unpardonable, and emblematic of NIDA’s ideologically based pronouncements about any drug not backed by a well-financed pharmaceutical, alcohol, or tobacco company.

Leshner told the attendees that prolonged drug use “rewires the brain” and these brain changes are what produce a “compulsion” to use drugs and an array of other behavioral consequences. Club drugs are particularly good examples of this compulsion, he said. He cited a Johns Hopkins Study that produced PET scans showing a “normal person” versus an Ecstasy user three weeks after he or she stopped using Ecstasy. Leshner said that the PET scan showed persistent changes 3 weeks later. He also stated that a recent study shows that the degree of serotonin system damage caused by Ecstasy directly correlates to the degree of memory deficit. These studies can be found and reviewed at the Web site of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, www.maps.org, as well as at http://erowid.org/chemicals/mdma/mdma_journal.shtml#memory.

Here are two quotes from Leshner’s talk, which summarize, and are representative of, NIDA’s view of Ecstasy:

 … the point is, there is no such thing as a harmless club drug. It is a myth that Ecstasy is a benign ‘fun drug.’ The scientific evidence is absolutely clear. These are dangerous substances, not only in the short run, because they lead to dangerous behaviors, but in the long run, because they can in fact produce dramatic brain changes that last long after the individual stops taking the drug and that have dramatic behavioral consequences that can last the rest of someone’s life.

 

 It is true that Ecstasy does not appear to cause physical dependence. But it does cause compulsion to use drugs, and I might point out again that physical dependence is not what’s critical in addiction. … What causes crime, what causes family disruption, what causes societal disruption is the compulsion to use drugs. It’s just as real as physical dependence and it’s based in those brain changes.

Leshner said that addiction, at its core, is “a brain disease.” “It comes about,” he said, “because of changed brains. It’s as if you had a switch in your brain, and this is a metaphor, you don’t really have a switch in your brain…. You go through a stage of initial drug use. Initial drug use is a voluntary thing, and therefore a preventable behavior. Then drug use, drug, use, drug use, OOOPS, something happened in your brain and the switch flips. And, you move from the stage of voluntary drug users to the state of compulsive drug user and again that compulsion is the essence of addiction.”

Obviously, issues of a drug’s neurotoxicity (or any other physical damage that is caused by a drug) should not be discounted. However, the rhetoric employed by Leshner seems to conflate and confuse detrimental physical changes to the brain, with subjective psychological changes or shifts in thinking. Blurring that line, as Leshner seems to do, means that NIDA has entered into the dangerous business of determining (or decreeing) just what sort of psychological shifts are appropriate and what sort are inappropriate “brain diseases.” Leshner’s rhetoric, when adopted as official government policy, is a clear threat to the basic autonomy of each individual to control his or her own mind.

In wrapping up his talk, Leshner promoted NIDA’s various web sites, and stated that the clubdrugs.org website “is all scientifically accurate. None of what we use, ever, is hyperbolic or exaggerated.”

During a short question and answer session, one person said that he had heard that MDMA might have therapeutic value. Leshner shot back:

There has never been a clinical trial demonstrating the efficacy of Ecstasy for any clinical condition. And I have looked. There is not one published clinical trial. Again, the plural of anecdote is not evidence. So the fact that some people stand up and say ‘Ohh, I tried Ecstasy and it saved my life.” Very few of the people who tried Ecstasy and died, stand up and say that right? As Dr. Gold will say later, I’m sure, there has never been one scientific study that has demonstrated a clinical or therapeutic utility for Ecstasy. And thank you for asking that. It’s a critical thing to set the record straight.

Aside from failing to acknowledge that NIDA has refused to approve research that would examine the important issue of MDMA’s potential value as an adjunct to psychotherapy, numerous patients and psychotherapists (what Leshner would discount as mere “anecdote) have reported that MDMA was, indeed, helpful in therapy. Some of these reports can be reviewed at www.maps.org/research/mdma/index.html#maps. Others are recounted in the book The Secret Chief, by Myron Stolaroff (October 1997; ISBN: 0966001915).  Still others can be found in Greer & Tolbert, “Subjective Reports of the Effects of MDMA in a Clinical Setting,” Journal of Psychoactive Drugs (Vol. 18(4): 319-327) available online at: http://www.heffter.org/SUBJREPT.HTML.

Next to address the audience was Dr. David Gavin, Drug Science Specialist from DEA’s Dept. of Diversion Control.

Gavin’s talk was one of the most frustrating of the day. Indeed, he slandered several psychotherapists who in 1985 (when the DEA was first considering whether to make MDMA a controlled substance) gave testimony concerning the value of MDMA as an adjunct to psychotherapy. Gavin stated that these therapists, who advocated against placing MDMA in Schedule I (where it could not even be prescribed by doctors), were really trying to protect their own ecstasy use!

This is Gavin’s summary of the DEA hearings in 1985:

By the 1970s and 80s some health care professionals experimented with MDMA as an aid in psychotherapy for patients. And as Dr. Leshner already told you, this was not FDA approved, this was not NIDA funded or NIDA approved. These were experimental, uh, researchers or health care professionals who bought street drugs and gave it to their patients. And the central factor in establishing that therapeutic relationship was the knowledge that the therapists themselves had taken MDMA. So if you were a therapist and you were going to do MDMA in treatment, uh, you, yourself, was an MDMA user. And, that was critical in its efficacy. So that when they came and did battle when in 1985 DEA went to schedule the drug, these health care professionals came out of the wood work giving anecdotal experience they were really fighting for their own MDMA supply and were not too much worried about their patients.

 These statements by Gavin were a barrel of distortions. Francis L. Young, the Judge who presided over 9 days of DEA administrative hearings regarding MDMA in 1985 included among his findings:

 Low to moderate doses of MDMA have been given to individuals by wholly legitimate and highly regarded psychiatrists as an adjunct to psychotherapy. Some of the MDMA so administered was made by them under the supervision of Dr. Shulgin in his laboratory in California.

At the conclusion of the 1985 hearing, Judge Young ruled, “the evidence of record requires MDMA to be placed in Schedule III.” This would have made it possible for doctors to prescribe MDMA, and for psychiatrists to use it as an adjunct to therapy. The DEA, however, rejected their own Judge’s finding and placed MDMA in Schedule I – thus officially criminalizing even medical use of MDMA. Dr. Gavin, along with every other speaker at the conference, conveniently avoided mentioning Judge Young’s ruling.

Judge Young’s complete ruling, as well as other information on the scheduling of MDMA, can be reviewed at: www.cognitiveliberty.org/lawlibrary/mdmaindex.htm. For a report by two of the professionals involved in the early (1980-1983) therapeutic use of MDMA, see Greer & Tolbert, “Subjective Reports of the Effects of MDMA in a Clinical Setting,” Journal of Psychoactive Drugs (Vol. 18(4): 319-327) available online at: www.heffter.org/SUBJREPT.HTML.

Dr. Gavin claimed that MDMA “has an undeserved reputation for safety probably because of those early experiments with health care professionals… The dosages used in the early experiments do not represent the dosages that you see kids taking today in raves.”

Dr. Gavin estimated that “that 750,000 tablets are being used in the New York, Newark, New Jersey shore corridor each weekend. With 2 million tablets coming into the United States every week.”

He echoed his statement on the videotape, claiming, “these urban rave clubs are nothing more than crack houses. They are there for the purchase of multiple drugs. They walk in the door, pay $20 to enter the facility. Go to buy their drugs, and that drug is put out the back door and brought to college campuses, high schools, and rural communities.”

Dr. Gavin said that between June and December of last year, DEA analyzed over 3 million tablets. He said that the tablets were found to have a dose range of between .1 milligram and 193 milligrams of MDMA per tablet. The average dose was 87 milligrams of MDMA. The median dose was 92 milligram.

He spoke about the DEA’s STRIDE database, which stands for System To Retrieve Information From Drug Evidence. STRIDE compiles data on illegal substances purchased, seized, or acquired in DEA investigations. Data are gathered on the type of drug seized or bought, drug purity, location of confiscation, street price of the drug, and other characteristics. Data on drug exhibits from the FBI; the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia; and some exhibits submitted by other Federal, State, and local agencies also are included in STRIDE. STRIDE data have been compiled by DEA since 1971.

Gavin said that all the seized tablets contained some MDMA when you access the STRIDE database “through primary and secondary drug codes.” In addition to MDMA, some tablets were found to contain other controlled substances like MDEA, MDA, amphetamine, methamphetamine, and ketamine.

Referring again to the STRIDE database, Gavin discussed a search query using “suspected drug codes,” stating “that’s when you pick up the bogus pills. Less than 1 percent of all analyzed samples by [DEA], are bogus. They contained caffeine, ephedrine, dextromethorphan, caffeine-ephedrine, ephedrine plus dextromethorphan, or even over the counter antihistamine Benadryl.”

He did not mention the efforts, or the results, of groups like DanceSafe (www.dancesafe.org), which, among other things, provide on site pill testing at raves, as well as anonymous laboratory testing of pills that are sent to them.

Dr. Gavin then discussed recent studies concerning MDMA’s neurotoxicity and possible effect on memory. These studies, and reviews of them, can be found at www.maps.org, as well as www.erowid.org/chemicals/mdma/mdma.shtml.

Dr. Gavin stated that “necrosis” cell death is not seen much with MDMA, but that “apoptosis” is seen. He described apoptosis as:

an active controlled and programmed process that is regulated by specific death promoter genes. When MDMA is metabolized, it sets out a cascade to regulate, sends out messenger RNA, sets up a code to produce these death promoter genes and proteins. You get DNA strand breaks, you don’t see that with necrosis…

He stated that scientists have blocked the apoptosis by injecting vitamin E and another anti-oxidant called “PBM” into the brain.

Dr. Gavin ended his talk by quickly surveying: GHB, ketamine, and dextromethorphan (DXM).

The next speaker was Dr. Mark Gold, a professor at the University of Florida’s Brain Institute. He began by discussing the molecular structure of MDA, MDMA, and PMA, and methamphetamine.

Dr. Gold recited a list of what he said were early statements about cocaine being safe and nonaddictive. He said that these all were proven false over time, and that we are in a similar early phase with MDMA. He drew parallels between the history of cocaine and what is now occurring with MDMA.  He said that cocaine was thought a wonder drug initially and useful for therapy, similar to some current claims for MDMA. And we now know, he said, that cocaine is addictive and destructive to society.

Dr. Gold was asked whether an “anti-drug vaccine” was realistic and whether such a vaccine could be drug specific. Dr. Gold responded there are two such vaccines so far, one for heroin and one for cocaine. The heroin vaccine is dangerous, he said, because it can affect other opiates, which would be bad if you ever need morphine for a legitimate reason. He was not aware of anyone working on a vaccine for MDMA use.

Dr. Gold said that rumors that some MDMA contains heroin is an urban myth. DEA STRIDE database shows no pills that contained both MDMA and heroin at the same time. The myth may be based on small parts of dark Tootsie Roll being smeared into the MDMA when it is smuggled into raves inside Tootsie Rolls. He also mentioned that the DEA arrested a Russian who stated that in Russia the two drugs are being mixed.

That ended the first day of the conference. On day two, the attendees met in small sessions to discuss various tactics for combating Ecstasy. These meetings were closed to the public.

At lunchtime on Tuesday, attendees heard from General Barry McCaffrey, the Director of the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy—the so-called “Drug Czar.” The introduction to McCaffrey reminded me, again, that McCaffrey has absolutely no previous training or experience related to pharmacology or drug policy. His resume is a long string of military jobs.

McCaffrey began by stressing that combating Ecstasy requires international cooperation. He congratulated the DEA, NIDA, and US Customs for the work they have been doing to fight against “club drugs.” 

McCaffrey then repeated the refrain from the first day of the conference, stating that there is a wide spread misconception that Ecstasy is a benign substance and that this leads people to conclude that cops should focus on more dangerous drugs. This argument, he said, ignores what NIDA is saying – “Ecstasy is not benign. We’ve got massive evidence now at hand that we are watching unfold a problem of tragic consequences.”

McCaffrey said he spoke with Dr. David Smith at the Haight Ashbury Clinic in San Francisco and that Dr. Smith told him that San Francisco is seeing an increase in poly drug abuse in which Ecstasy is one of the drugs of abuse. “But, mostly, what he [Smith] said, was we are encountering literally hundreds of cases a month of psychotic bizarre reactions of people that have been using Ecstasy of all ages. He [Smith] said it’s a massive problem and it has come upon them almost without warning.” (Read what Rick Doblin of MAPS had to say about this after speaking with David Smith.)

McCaffrey stated that Ecstasy has “measurable marked” effects on the brain. Quoting Leshner, McCaffrey stated, “we have …determined, without question, that people who take MDMA, even just a few times, are likely to have long-term, perhaps permanent problems, with memory and learning.” Again, to review these studies visit: www.maps.org/research/mdma/index.html  and/or, www.erowid.org/chemicals/mdma/mdma_journal.shtml.

McCaffrey said that Ecstasy fit the “disease model” to the extent that when you see a community flooded with a new drug more people are exposed to it and, thus, like a pathogen, more will become infected and use it. He said that Ecstasy use is “skyrocketing” among 18 – 25-year-olds. Use is up 67 percent from last year, he said.

McCaffrey said that new legislation was needed from Congress, and stressed that more money was needed to address “the club drugs problem.” After stating that the government needs a “science based education program,” he them announced a propaganda campaign: a 5 million dollar “media blitz” which, he said, was set to begin in mid-August. He explained, that the ONDCP was “purchasing key words in the internet domains: ‘ecstasy’ ‘MDMA’ ‘club drugs’ and others, so that visitors who go to those words will see our advertising banners and can have access to science-based valid information about the problem.” 

“I am, without question,” said McCaffrey “a proponent for driving anti-drug attitudes and messages into American culture. If that’s not what I’m supposed to be doing, we got the wrong person in this job. That is precisely what the 185 million dollar a year media campaign is trying to take NIDA messages, and SAMHSA messages, and Columbia University messages about drug abuse and put them out there were America can learn from them in the competitive idea environment. I just had a young Yale sophomore who was studying this summer about the drug culture on the Internet. It is unbelievable the high quality …pro drug culture sites, not just selling drugs… but purporting to explain how we can safely use these substances.”

Sentencing for MDMA offenses and other club drugs must also be increased, said McCaffrey:

I think we made a terrible mistake to think we can influence, for example, low-level retail sales of drugs by draconian penalties. I’m more interested in trying to link the criminal justice penalty system with the drug treatment system. At the same time, I would publicly suggest, that the current penalties in use for MDMA are inadequate and we need to ensure that state law – this is less a federal problem than it is a local law enforcement—has adequate tools to use to confront low level sales of pills of this dangerous drug.

As I mentioned earlier, Congress is currently considering two bills that would significantly increase the sentences for Ecstasy offenses. Updates on these bills, as well as an analysis of their flawed provisions is available at www.cognitiveliberty.org/ecstasybill.htm some pending state bills can be reviewed at: www.cognitiveliberty.org/lawlibrary/mdmaindex.htm.

McCaffrey ended his talk by taking some inconsequential questions from attendees. The next speaker was Attorney General Janet Reno, but CSPAN ended its coverage of the conference just prior to her talk.

For the next couple of weeks, the DEA conference can be viewed on CSPAN’s Web site. Go to www.cspan.org, and then type “ecstasy” in the search box. T

This report was prepared by Richard Glen Boire, J.D., staff attorney at the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics.

About the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics
The Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, law and policy center working in the public interest to protect fundamental civil liberties. The Center seeks to foster cognitive liberty – the basic human right to unrestrained independent thinking, including the right to control one’s own mental processes and to experience the full spectrum of possible thought.
>> Learn More