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CENTER FOR
COGNITIVE LIBERTY & ETHICS

post office box 73481 davis/california 95617-3481
telephone & facsimile: 1.530.750.7912

Note: for continuous updates on this Act, visit  our updates page.

An Analysis of
The Ecstasy Prevention Act of 2001

1.  Introduction

On July 19, 2001, in conjunction with a 2-day NIDA-directed Ecstasy conference, Senator Bob Graham (D-Fla) introduced the “Ecstasy Prevention Act of 2001” (S. 1208). An almost identical bill (H.R. 2582), with the same title, was introduced the following day in the House of Representatives by Representative John Mica (R-Fla).  

On December 20, 2001, the Ecstasy Prevention Act of 2001 was attached by amendment to the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act (H.R. 2215), and passed the Senate. The Ecstasy Prevention Act is found within H.R. 2215, at Title VIII (Secs. 8001-8007).

This is a brief summary and analysis of the major provisions of the Ecstasy Prevention Act of 2001, as attached to H.R. 2215. 

 

2.  Summary & Analysis of Major Provisions

Under Section 8002 of the Act, communities that pass ordinances “restricting rave clubs” and increase law enforcement efforts directed toward Ecstasy offenses, will receive priority in obtaining federal grants under the Public Health Service Act.

Analysis: Targeting “rave clubs” in an effort to crack down on MDMA use is analogous to targeting anyone with long hair or a tie-died shirt for marijuana possession. Use of such profiling unconstitutionally elevates cultural stereotypes to the level of probable cause. The fact that federal anti-drug agents have to rely on music profiling to enforce anti-MDMA drug laws reveals that the vast majority of people who use MDMA do so responsibly and cannot be identified based on violent or anti-social behavior. Instead, in order to crack down on MDMA use, the police are reduced to employing overbroad profiles based on the style of music certain people listen to.

The U.S. government should not be allocating public health funds based on a community’s capitulation to federal government pressures coercing them to squelch a particular entertainment subculture. Advancing public health is better accomplished by providing people with truthful information about illegal drugs, and allocating money for harm reduction programs.

Under Sections 8003 and 8007 of the Act, Authorizes the use of government funds ($15 million in the original bill) "to assist anti-Ecstasy law enforcement initiatives in high intensity drug trafficking areas” and (another $1 million in the original bill) to establish a federal “Task Force on Ecstasy/MDMA and Emerging Club Drugs,” which will report to President Bush and to Congress on how to improve national drug control strategy with regard to Ecstasy.

Analysis: According to the United Nations, 180 million people – worldwide – use illegal drugs. (UNDCP, Drug Report 2000 (Oxford Univ. Press). The National Drug Intelligence Center reports that 3.3 million Americans admitted in 1998 that they have used MDMA at some point in their lives, and last year U.S. Customs seized 9.3 million MDMA pills. (National Drug Intelligence Center National Drug Threat Assessment 2001 - The Domestic Perspective October 2000, Table 10. [http://www.usdoj.gov/ndic/pubs/647/other.htm]). Currently, over 2 million Americans are incarcerated in the U.S. (The Punishing Decade, Justice Policy Institute, May 2000) with 299,000 serving time for drug offenses. (Drug Policy and the Criminal Justice System, The Sentencing Project, May 2, 2001, [http://www.sentencingproject.org/brief/drugs.pdf].)

Such statistics show that the desire to experience alternative states of consciousness is widespread, and will never be policed out of existence no matter how much money is allocated to the cause. Rather than spend an additional $16 million on the futile and immoral task of policing peoples’ mental states, the U.S. government should consider employing a harm-based national drug policy; one that polices people whose behavior, after taking a drug such as MDMA, actually causes harm to others or presents a clear and present danger to others.

Not only would such a harm-based policy save hundreds of millions of dollars, it would return a morally defensible foundation to national drug policy. What goes on inside a one’s head is just as private as what goes on inside one’s bedroom. A person who responsibly alters his or her consciousness (with the use of MDMA or any other drug, technique, or technology) should be left in peace unless his or her subsequent behavior endangers others.

Under Section 8004 of the Act, The Director of ONDCP is ordered to ensure that the “national youth anti-drug media campaign” that “addresses the reduction and prevention of abuse of MDMA and emerging drugs among young people in the United States.”

Analysis: This section of the Act seeks to bolster an unabashed scare campaign under the guise of drug education. Americans and their children are not served by bombarding them with additional Drug War propaganda. Presenting further scare-rhetoric, rather than providing accurate information about the potential harms and benefits of a drug like MDMA, is not only ineffective, it is dangerously irresponsible. Americans and their children should be told the truth about drugs by their government, including providing potentially life-saving facts about how to minimize the harm that may be associated with taking MDMA.

Under Section 8005 of the Act, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) are authorized “such sums as are necessary…to commission a drug test for MDMA which would meet the standards for the Federal Workplace.”

Analysis: The testing of American’s bodily fluids for illegal drugs is a $1 billion industry. (Shepard, E. M., Clifton, T.J., “Drug Testing and Labor Productivity: Estimates Applying a Production Function Model,” Institute of Industrial Relations, Research Paper No. 18, Le Moyne Univ., Syracuse, NY (1998), p. 8) There is no government research suggesting that federal workers are under the influence of MDMA in the workplace. Allocating federal money to produce a drug test for MDMA that can be used to probe the bodily fluids of employees is a disguised effort to detect and police their use of MDMA in their off-work, private hours. Federal workers should be judged based on their performance on the job, not based on personal, private, leisure time decisions.

The vast majority of adults use drugs responsibly –whether the drug is legal like alcohol, and Vicodin, or illegal like marijuana and MDMA. Indeed, were it not for a host of invasive law enforcement tactics and tools, including drug testing, it would be almost impossible for the government to determine who is using illegal drugs and who is not. Since there is no evidence that MDMA use is occurring in the federal work place, this provision should be recognized as a further allocation of money to increase the policing of Americans’ private mental states, under the guise of providing a “drug free” workplace.

Under Section 8006 of the Act, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is ordered to conduct research on MDMA and to publish a public report that “evaluates the effects that MDMA use can have on an individual’s health,” and documents “those research findings with respect to MDMA that are scientifically valid and identify the medical consequences on an individual’s health.”

Analysis: As a government agency playing a major role in waging the War on Drugs, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has, unfortunately, become an agent of ideology, rather than a neutral scientific advisor. This is made clear by examining the presenters at the most recent NIDA conference on MDMA, which took place on July 19, 20, 2001, (in conjunction with the introduction of the Ecstasy Prevention Act of 2001).[1] Well-respected researchers such as Dr. David Nichols (Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacology from Purdue University) and Dr. Charles Grob (Professor of Psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine) were not invited, because their research and clinical findings with respect to MDMA present balanced examinations of MDMA – examinations that address both the potential health consequences of MDMA as well as the drug’s potential benefits in a therapeutic setting.[2]

More research on MDMA’s health consequences and potential benefits is needed, but it should not be agenda-driven. Unfortunately, in the climate of a government-declared “War on Drugs” all government information becomes propagandized. Americans are no longer able to trust government statements about illegal drugs such as MDMA.

3.  Conclusion

The provisions of the Ecstasy Prevention Act of 2001 seek to perpetuate a failed and futile War on Drugs policy, by employing more police and filling more prison cells with otherwise law-abiding citizens who use MDMA without causing harm to others. Pouring more money into policing Americans’ mental states is ineffective and a wholly inappropriate government activity. Public health is more effectively advanced by producing and disseminating harm reduction information about MDMA than by coercing communities to prohibit or restrict electronic music events. Lastly, Americans and their children deserve truthful, fact-based information about both the potential dangers and the potential benefits associated with MDMA.

 


[1]  The conference agenda and presenters at the NIDA Ecstasy conference can be found on the agency’s Web site at: http://www.nida.nih.gov/Meetings/MDMA/index.html.

Although NIDA invited only those MDMA researchers whose findings supported the government's War on Ecstasy rhetoric and policy, several scientists in attendance succeeded in voicing objections to NIDA's politicized role, and to ONDCP's MDMA policy in general. (See: "Ecstasy Experts Want Realistic Messages,"Brian Vastag,  Journal of the American Medical Association, August 15, 2001. Available online at: http://jama.ama-assn.org/issues/v286n7/ffull/jmn0815-1.html

[2]  In March of 2001, Drs. Nichols and Grob, along with other experts on MDMA, testified before the US Sentencing Commission in Washington D.C. Their testimony can be read online at: http://www.cognitiveliberty.org/news/mdmausscmarch21.htm.

 

Additional Resources:
For more information and continuous updates, please visit the area of the CCLE’s Web site devoted to the Ecstasy Prevention Act of 2001:
http://www.cognitiveliberty.org/DLL/sb1208_index.htm,


For more information, contact:
Richard Glen Boire, J.D.
Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics
E-mail: rgboire@cognitiveliberty.org
Telephone & Fax: 1-530-750-7912
Web site: http://www.cognitiveliberty.org/

About the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics
The Center for Cognitive Liberty & 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. Web site: http://www.cognitiveliberty.org

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