Stiffened for Selling Ecstasy
(AP) -- The U.S. Sentencing Commission stiffened guideline penalties for selling the drug
ecstasy, more than tripling potential jail terms to over 6 years for people caught selling
change, made Tuesday in response to a mandate from Congress, comes as a new White House
drug policy report shows that ecstasy, once a drug used primarily at nightclubs, has
expanded beyond the club scene and is now being sold at high schools, on the street and
even at coffee shops in some cities.
availability of ecstasy increased dramatically and more blacks and Hispanics are using the
drug, said the biannual report, which chronicles the latest trends in drug use.
H. Jurith, acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said the
report's findings should serve as a warning to policy makers.
never again want another 'crack epidemic' to blindside this nation,'' Jurith said in a
statement. ``By monitoring what is happening on the streets, we can often see a problem
before it becomes an epidemic.''
is chemically known as MDMA -- methylenedioxymethylamphetamine. Users normally experience
feelings of euphoria and an increased desire to interact socially. Blood pressure, heart
rate and body temperature increase dramatically.
overall teen drug use has either fallen or stayed the same in recent years, ecstasy use
has climbed. The White House report, to be presented at a Senate hearing on narcotics
Wednesday, showed that more than 80 percent of officials surveyed in 20 cities around the
country said ecstasy was more available than ever.
and dance parties known as ``raves'' are the most common venue for using ecstasy, but law
enforcement, epidemiologists and drug treatment providers reported that the drug was also
being sold at private parties, college campuses, high schools and on the street.
York, officials reported sales of ecstasy and other ``club drugs'' in shopping malls; in
Washington, ecstasy was being sold in coffee shops, the report said.
U.S. Sentencing Commission changed the sentencing guidelines for ecstasy after weighing
the views of the Justice Department, which supported tougher sentences, and hearing from
criminal lawyers and some medical researchers who opposed stiffer penalties on the grounds
that they are excessive for a drug that is less dangerous than heroin or cocaine.
guidelines call for sentences of between 63 months to 78 months for first time offenders
caught selling 800 pills. The sentence used to be 15 months to 21 months for the same
guidelines are mandatory for federal judges and are good for six months starting May 1.
The commission, an independent federal agency that sets national sentencing policy, can
submit a permanent rule to Congress in May.
change makes ecstasy five times more serious to possess or sell than heroin on a per-dose
basis, said the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
is a wholly political act, not one based on scientific evidence,'' said Edward Mallett,
the group's president.
Copyright 2001, Associated Press