US Ecstasy bill given approval
Saturday, June 1, 2002
A Southern California legislator is carrying a bill to make the party drug Ecstasy a controlled substance under California law.
AB 2300 by Assemblywoman Patricia Bates, R-Laguna Nigel, cleared the Assembly this week and is on its way to the Senate.
“Unfortunately, it has taken the deaths of two young women – one in Northern California and one in Southern California – to heighten the danger of this drug,” said Trent Smith, Bates’ chief of staff.
Yuba City High School student Nicole Crowder died April 27. Cathy Isford, a Santa Ana high school student, died last month after her senior prom.
The deaths “provided a little momentum” for the bill, Smith said, “but we still have a pretty uphill battle.”
Bates initially wanted Ecstasy listed as a Schedule I controlled substance, but had to settle for a Schedule II listing to get the bill out of an Assembly committee, Smith said.
There’s no difference in criminal penalties: up to three years in prison for unlawful possession or possession for sale, or up to four years in prison for sale.
A Schedule I drug under California law has a “high potential for abuse” with no medically approved use.
A Schedule II drug also has the high potential for abuse but may have an accepted medical use.
Ecstasy, formally known as 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA, has been on the federal controlled substances list since 1988.
“Given ongoing interest in pursuing clinical trials to determine if there is an acceptable medical usage, placing MDMA on Schedule I may discourage potential medical application,” according to a bill analysis prepared for the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
The drug was patented in 1914 and was intended as a weight-loss aid. It was never marketed due to its side effects, which include overheating, cardiac arrest and brain damage.
It’s now a popular drug in “rave” or “techno” parties.
“Many suburban communities are also experiencing an increased use of MDMA within smaller party environments,” the bill analysis said. “It has become increasingly available through high school drug networks.”
Designating Ecstasy a Schedule II drug “sends a signal to young people that it’s a dangerous drug,” Smith said.
More importantly, listing Ecstasy as a controlled substance under state law would make it easier for district attorneys to prosecute cases, Smith said.
“Right now, a DA or prosecutor, the first part of their case would have to be explaining the chemistry and prove it has a link to a drug that is scheduled,” Smith said. “It usually involves some chemistry discussion and sometimes it gets confusing with juries and courts.”
The California District Attorneys Association supported AB 2300 when it proposed a Schedule I listing for Ecstasy, but took a neutral stand when Bates amended the bill to give Ecstasy a Schedule II listing, Smith said.
“We were in a very difficult position,” he said. “We wanted to keep the bill moving and live to fight another day.”
In the Senate Public Safety Committee, the bill faces a “big hurdle,” Smith said. Legislation making Ecstasy a Schedule I drug died in the committee last year.