Drug War

Scientific Evidence Clearly Shows That Ecstasy Is Only 200 Times As Bad As Pot

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Last week U.S. District Judge William Pauley III sentenced Sean McCarthy to 26 months in prison for conspiracy to possess and distribute MDMA (Ecstasy), less than half the minimum term recommended by federal sentencing guidelines. According to the ACLU, Pauley's decision is the first time a federal judge has rejected the U.S. Sentencing Commission's 2001 determination that MDMA should be treated as 500 times worse than marijuana and more than twice as bad as cocaine. "We commend Judge Pauley for recognizing that the 10-year-old sentencing guideline for Ecstasy is based on flawed assumptions and repudiated science," says Scott Michelman, an attorney with the ACLU's Criminal Law Reform Project. "Unnecessarily punitive drug sentencing guidelines play a major role in exacerbating our nation's costly problem of overincarceration, and we urge the U.S. Sentencing Commission to undertake a thorough and scientifically grounded re-evaluation of all drug guidelines."

Under the 2005 Supreme Court ruling in U.S. v. Booker, sentencing guidelines are no longer mandatory, but judges still have to explain any deviations, which are subject to review. In a May 19 memorandum (PDF) made public last Friday, Pauley, a federal judge in New York City, notes that one gram of MDMA was treated as equivalent to 35 grams of marijuana (meaning that one gram of MDMA triggered the same sentence as 35 grams of marijuana) until Congress passed the Ecstasy Anti-Proliferation Act of 2000*, which instructed the commission to review and increase MDMA penalties. In 2001 the commission settled on a new "marijuana equivalency" of 500 grams for MDMA, compared to 200 for cocaine and 1,000 for heroin. Based on evidence presented by the ACLU and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, Pauley concludes that one of the commission's justifications for treating MDMA more severely than cocaine—that "MDMA acts as both a stimulant and a hallucinogen"—was "without factual support and largely irrelevant." Furthermore, he says, "the Commission's analysis focused on the few ways in which MDMA is more harmful than cocaine, while disregarding several significant factors suggesting that it is in fact less harmful." Such "opportunistic rummaging" through the evidence, he says, is not a sound basis for sentencing policy. Pauley instead picks a marijuana equivalency of 200, the same as cocaine's.

This new ratio yields a much shorter sentence for McCarthy: a bit more than two years rather than five to seven. Since I generally support anything that reduces the punishment for behavior that should not be a crime to begin with, I welcome that outcome, just as I welcomed the shrinking of the sentencing gap between crack and cocaine powder, even though eliminating the gap would have been better (and repealing all penalties for consensual transactions between adults would have been better still). But that does not mean Pauley's number is more "scientifically grounded" than the commission's, whether before or after 2001, when the offense of selling MDMA to eager buyers suddenly became 14 times as reprehensible. Rating the badness of drugs is a largely subjective process, especially when it's tied to criminal penalties. To Pauley's mind, for instance, the violence associated with the cocaine trade, though almost entirely a product of prohibition, counts against that drug, while the fact that MDMA users are relatively young (compared to pot smokers?) justifies making penalties for selling it more severe than they would otherwise be.

And what about heroin? Is it really five times worse than cocaine? Not in terms of physical effects (assuming a reliable supply, sanitary injection practices, and no mixing with other depressants). Explaining why heroin should be treated more severely than MDMA, the sentencing commission cited prohibition-driven factors such as overdoses, the spread of disease through needle sharing, and potentially violent thefts committed to support artificially expensive habits. It also noted that "there are more heroin cases in the federal system than MDMA cases." What does that have to do with the punishment deserved by heroin or MDMA offenders? While Judge Pauley deserves credit for challenging the unfounded decisions reached by the sentencing commission in response to mindless congressional dictates, we should not pretend that our system of arbitrary pharmacological distinctions will ever be rational, scientific, or just.

*Correction: Thanks to a vigilant reader, I have reworded this sentence to clarify that the  Ecstasy Anti-Proliferation Act was approved in 2000, while the sentencing commission issued its revised guidelines in 2001. 

[via the Drug War Chronicle]

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  1. The prison guards’ union doesn’t give a shit. As long as they get to warehouse people to justify their paychecks they’ll be happy.

    Prosecutors don’t care, cops don’t care, judges don’t care as long as the pipeline stays full of people.

  2. Does the pill with the Toyota symbol on it lead to an unintended accelerated high?

    1. the Honda ones have vtec yo

      1. and why are the Honda ones the only ones of that arrangement upside-down? Were they arranged by an ignorant noob,or somebody who has a specific dislike for Honda?

    2. The U2 ones start out a little rough, have a short period of brilliance, and then a long slow descent into blathering incoherence.

      1. And only 40-somethings in cableknit sweaters still take them.

    3. The playboy bunny brand (not shown) is smooth as glass, great high, but you have to take a few more of them (seem to be a little weaker than average).

  3. 200 x 0 = 0

    1. Exactly and 200/0= no real solution.

  4. “via the Drug War Chronicle”

    Excuse me. That should be, the Drugs As A Public Health Issue Chronicle.

    Keep up with the current rhetoric, please.

    1. No. It’s Drug Kinetic Military Action Chronicle.

  5. Kids on E are at most 6 times as annoying than kids smoking dope.

    1. Young ladies on Ecstasy are much more likely to be overcome with a sudden urge to have sex with you so that offsets the annoyance factor A LOT.

      1. ^^BINGO

        Just make sure you’re not at Stanford or North Dakota.

      2. there’s a time and a place for fucking chix who are high on E and it’s called college

        1. That line should be in every college recruitment brochure.

    2. SIV PWNED you re: the teeny bopper sex

    3. Yes, but monkeys on MDMA (whom I used to dose as part of experiments at the lab I worked for as my first job) are hilarious. At least 20 times more hilarious than kids on dope.

      1. Did they make the MDMA on site or was it ordered? How easy would it of been for some to be “lost?”

      2. You can’t just leave us hanging like that. Tell us stories about monkey antics, you greasy buffoon.

        1. “Then we’d give those monkeys massive amounts of ecstasy and…oops! Tea’s on, gotta run, toodles.”

      3. i wonder if giving E to monkeys would piss PETA off.

  6. Ecstasy saved my marriage. Greatest…drug…ever.

    In all seriousness, the US Army has completed phase I testing of using MDMA as a prescription for PTSD, and had favorable results so far. “Rebel” psychiatrists have also provided the drug to help in couples therapy and with anger and stress management.

    1. Really? Interesting – I did not know this. Will have to investigate further.

      1. Total truth. I was introduced to it in that fashion when my wife and I went to marriage counseling. We absolutely believe it helped by allowing us to open up and communicate in a much more honest fashion than we had before. Removes the combative “I must win” element of discussions.

          1. As I mentioned in my original post, ASSHOLE ^_^

            1. Looks like it wore off.

    2. Agreed. I made this same comment just on another thread just a couple of days ago.

      If you can find real MDMA, it can be a wonder drug another perfect example of something that in no fashion should be considered a schedule 1 drug.

    3. I think we need to work this angle more. You hear that SoCons? Ecstasy saves MARRIAGES! Er… but not gay marriages, of course.

    4. Having somewhat recently returned from multiple combat deployments, I can tell you from personal experience that it helps a lot. It just wasn’t prescription. 2 weekends of rolling sure beats an entire lifetime on Valium.

  7. Drug laws make about as much sense as Barack Obama’s economic policies. Fucking statists.

  8. Sometimes, on a sunny Friday, my brain cannot process the fact that there are a bunch of people sitting around contemplating the “marijuana equivalency” of various unrelated substances. This pathetic commission is -1,000,000 marijuanas worth of awesome.

    1. That’s -1,000 kMj! Far out.

  9. I am sure that Frito Lay isn’t going to mind that I buy 200 times as many Doritos.

  10. RASMUSSEN SHOCK POLL: Barack Obama 41% Ron Paul 37%…

    Congressman Ron Paul may be a long shot to win the Republican presidential nomination, but he runs competitively with President Obama right now.

    The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely Voters shows Paul picking up 37% of the vote, while the president earns 41%. The Texas congressman joins Mitt Romney, Michelle Bachmann, and Rick Perry as candidates within hailing distance of the president at this time.

    http://www.rasmussenreports.co…..on_paul_37

    1. I told myself that I wouldn’t let Ron Paul make me feel any optimism this time. Goddammit.

      1. Until he wins New Hampshire, I wont be optimistic.

        1. Paul’s pathetic 2008 campaign defeated all my optimism. It’s great that young people support him, but howsabout letting the older folk run the campaign this time?

          1. You said it, brother.

      2. Don’t worry. The fucking fucktards in the GOP primaries will probably go with Slimeball Romney or Crazyeyes Bachmann.

        1. Just as well. It will keep me from feeling it is my duty to go to the polls. Instead, I’ll exercize my right not to vote. ‘When you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.’ Honestly, why do any of us around here bother to follow The Road to the White House charade.

        2. Romney is more presidential.

          1. Who is taller, Romney or Obama? If Romney got a tan they’d be otherwise indistinguishable so we can only assume it’ll be a “taller guy wins” kind of year. Yay, democracy!

            1. Which one wears suits Made in America?

              1. Fuck the suit, who’s wearing the made in China American flag lapel pin?

      3. The PBS News Hour appearance jump-started my false hope.

        1. I’ve never been a huge Ron Paul fan, but I have say, the end of that interview was brilliant.

    2. Paul caused the lowest number for Obama.

      Probably just statistical fluctuation on the Obama end, but interesting, maybe.

      1. Maybe not. Friends of ours, who had an Obama sign in their yard in 2008, now endorse Ron Paul.

        1. So fickle those Obama supporters.

  11. True Story: I smoked a LOT of pot during college. As in, probably an eighth a week. I did acid twice (first trip was meditative, second trip was super euphoric, not planning to do it again because too many horror stories). Hell, I let a buddy grow mushrooms in my room (which I never got to try because he transferred- the jerk).

    But I never did ecstasy. A friend did, and he advertised it as, “It takes all the awkwardness out of social situations.” Well, the thing is, I like being a bludgeon, so I like that barrier in social situations.

    1. It comes across as weak acid for me.

      Chicks seem to like it.

      1. I always thought I would like it (if you could fucking get some that didn’t turn out to be 90% speed, that is… *grumbles*).

        1. There’s a pretty good website that I’m not gutsy enough to google and link to from here (at work), that tests samples people send in and lets you know the MDMA percentage of the brand (as told by the stamped picture on the tab).

          You can easily check it out before purchasing. I’ve never had anyone give me any crap over backing out once I saw the item and determined that that brand was known for inferior quality.

          1. Here you go.

            There are other pills on there as well.

      2. Chicks seem to like it.

        Hanging out where chicks are on Ecstasy greatly improves your chances of getting laid.

    2. I much preferred Acid to Shrooms… so in my opinion, you didn’t miss anything with the shrooms.

  12. “there are more heroin cases in the federal system than MDMA cases.”

    Yes, that sounds like a valid, logical reason to criminalize it more.

  13. until 2001, when Congress passed the Ecstasy Anti-Proliferation Act, which instructed the commission to review and increase MDMA penalties.

    As you know, the Ecstasy Anti-Proliferation Act (“the Act”) was enacted on October 17, 2000,

    Minor quibble. I believe the sentencing guidlines were written in 2001 based on the 2000 law. This stuck in my head because I recall some talk of “Clinton pardoning non-violent drug offenders” from pro-Drug Democrats or liberaltarian-types back then. Clinton had just signed this bill so I told them their prediction was bullshit.Of course I may be wrong. There were anti-Ecstasy, anti-Rave bills introduced all the time back then.Often by Senators that likely had Ecstasy-using, Rave-attending daughters.

    1. It was me! I was the anti-rave senator!

  14. With regard to sentencing guidelines, how many times as bad as pot is wrecking the entire U.S. economy?

  15. Re violence associated with the cocaine trade, though almost entirely a product of prohibition

    That’s also the latest trend in over-zealous (post-9/11) policing generally.  Cop: Put down that camera.  You: Fuck you.  Cop: You’re busted for disobeying a cop (even though I have no justification for the “order” to begin with).

  16. Surveillance video helps police arrest woman in theft of 780-year-old Catholic relic

    A surveillance video provided the break that led to the arrest of a Long Beach woman in connection with the theft a 780-year-old religious relic, police said Thursday night.

    The relic of St. Anthony — a bone from his body — and the 16-inch case, or reliquary, that houses it were reported stolen Monday.

    Police arrested Maria Solis, 41, Thursday on suspicion of grand theft and burglary, said Sgt. Rico Fernandez of the Long Beach Police Department.

    “St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost things, travelers and the poor,” Father Jose Maga?a told The Times. “Now he is home.”

    St. Anthony was not tasered. No nuns were killed. Nothing else happened.

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.co…..relic.html

    1. Re: Another Isolated Incident,

      St. Anthony was not tasered. No nuns were killed. Nothing else happened.

      Wrong, something else DID happen:

      Tax-fed, jack-booted leeches received (yet again) their “share” of stolen goods people call with a very sick sense of humor “taxes.”

      You forgot to add that.

  17. So, using this logic, is being shot (or shooting someone else) with a .45 5x as bad as shooting someone with a 9mm?

    But then a 30-06 seems like it’d be less-bad than a .30-.30, which I know deer find not to be true.

    I am confuse…

  18. How, on God’s green earth, do you take a society seriously, any aspect of any society, that goes to this much trouble to invent things to be hysterical about. Societies, by their nature I suppose, are prone to hysteria. The hysteria over drugs is among the more asinine of possible hysterias and has produced the most harm as far as I can tell.

  19. If you don’t like drugs, then don’t use them.

  20. Is there any logic to comparing drugs on a mass basis anyway? Does the “marijuana equivalent” unit take into account variations in THC content? Without some way to quantify “high”, isn’t this all just a total fiction?

  21. I’m sure that headline is supposed to read “good” instead of “bad”

    1. Re: MNG,

      I’m sure that headline is supposed to read “good” instead of “bad”

      But, MNG – that is *exactly* what it says.

      It is 200 times as bad-ass as pot 😉

  22. OFF TOPIC:

    7 Music Trends Whose Return Must Be Stopped

    From the charity super group part:

    Still, with events like Live Earth and no shortage of horrors in the world, it’s just a matter of time until the track, “You Know, In Some Parts of the World Ten Year Olds Are Sold as Sex Slaves, For Old Western Men to Sodomize Them, And Babies Get Shot in The Eye Like it’s No Big Thing. It’s So Messed Up, Man” will hit the charts, featuring the vocal stylings of Will Smith, R Kelly, Lionel Richie and a cast of dozens of other celebrities eager to promote new films and albums.

    1. Personally, I believe trend #3 should be stopped. I mean, “We Are the World” was, as a point of fact, one of the most horrible music moments in history, but it’s so horrible, it can’t possibly come back. #3, however, still has fans.

  23. With the recent flare of research chemicals getting sold over the counter the dangers of prohibition should be even clearer. Pandora’s box has been opened. There’s no shortage of compounds that blast brain receptors and people who will seek them. So what is the reasonable policy?

    Right now we ban stuff, let darwin take care of the toxic fools, and know well enough that more stuff to ban is just sitting in the pipeline. Having been a toxic fool myself, I know absent the prohibition atmosphere I wouldn’t have made myself into a guinea pig.

    The most popular illegal drugs are often the safest. There will be more guinea pigs and there will be more emergency bans on certain chemicals. At least I learned the cutting edge of recreational drug use is an extremely dangerous place to be. I’ll be happy to watch this new chemical frontier get settled from the sidelines.

  24. totally off-topic but… just… wow…

    BRIDGEPORT — A city woman was in custody after police said she forced her 4-year-old son to chug a bottle of beer and then gave her 10-month-old daughter beer and cocaine.

    Juliette Dunn, 29, of Success Village, was charged with two counts of risk of injury to a child and two counts of second-degree assault and was being held in lieu of $100,000 bond. A female companion, 33-year-old Lisa Jefferson, was arrested on the same charges and also had a $100,000 bond.

    According to police, officers were patrolling Success Village June 28 when they were waved down by a neighbor who complained that a mother was feeding her children beer on the playground.

    Police said they spotted Dunn and Jefferson sitting at the playground, the young children on the ground next to them. As officers approached them, police said they spotted an empty 40-ounce bottle of Steel Reserve beer on the ground beside the boy. They said a baby bottle next to the baby contained a dark liquid that smelled strongly of an alcohol beverage. Dunn was identified as the children’s mother.

    Police said witnesses told them that Jefferson had handed the bottle of beer to the boy and ordered him to chug it. When he had finished it police said Jefferson called the boy an alcoholic.

    Both children were taken to Bridgeport Hospital where police said both the boy and girl tested positive for alcohol and the 10-month-old also had cocaine in her system. While being examined, police said the 4-year-old told a social worker he likes, “Natural Ice beer, Budweiser beer, but didn’t like the taste of Dog-Bite beer.”

    Police said Dunn told them Jefferson gives her son a bottle of beer everyday but she didn’t know how her 10-month-old daughter tested positive for cocaine since she doesn’t breast feed her.

    Read more: http://www.ctpost.com/news/art…..z1StPg0J00

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