Tuesday: U.S. Sentencing Commission Hearing on MDMA and Several Novel Psychoactive Substances

Press Release April 16, 2017
Media Contact

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<p>Tony Newman 646-335-5384<br />
Jag Davies 786-393-8100</p>

On Tuesday, April 18 the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) is holding a public hearing that will mark the beginning of a two-year process to reconsider the sentencing guidelines for MDMA as well as a handful of novel psychoactive substances (NPS).  The hearing will be streamed live.

DPA has submitted public comment warning the USSC against increasing sentences for people who use or sell NPS, while MAPS’ Rick Doblin will give testimony about why current MDMA sentencing policies are inappropriate and counterproductive.

“We need all those who care about public health and criminal justice reform to raise their voices during this review process,” said Stefanie Jones, director of audience engagement at the Drug Policy Alliance, where she heads up the organization’s Safer Partying campaign.  “It’s long past time to right the wrongs of MDMA criminalization – and to ensure we don’t repeat the same errors when it comes to other substances.”

“There’s a growing consensus it’s time to drastically reduce the role of criminalization when it comes to MDMA and other psychoactive substances,” she added.

The DEA placed MDMA into Schedule I in 1985, going against the recommendation of its own administrative law judge and blatantly ignoring that it had been used successfully in psychotherapy for years. In 2001, the situation became even worse when the USSC dramatically increased MDMA sentences, making penalties 500 times more severe than those for marijuana, basing its decision on faulty science that has since been disproven.

Over the past three decades, the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) has conducted extensive research demostrating that MDMA can be used safely and effectively to treat PTSD and other conditions.

Yet, in most states, mere possession of MDMA is a felony, while those convicted of selling even small amounts of it are subject to sentences that can easily put them behind bars for decades.

A key factor driving the USSC to conduct this review are two major federal cases where judges ruled that they did not have to follow the current MDMA sentencing guidelines, since they were so out of touch with science and public health.

Another factor is the appearance of MDMA analogues like methylone, MDPV and mephedrone, as well as cannabis analogues JWH-018 and AM-2201.  These five NPS specified as part of the review are the ones that have come up most frequently in criminal cases.  The USSC is now tasked with establishing sentencing guidelines where none currently exist.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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