News Release

Ecstasy to calculate five times higher than heroin Sentencing Commission ignores scientific testimony, dramatically increases sentencing levels for ecstasy

Washington, DC (March 21, 2001) -- The U.S. Sentencing Commission voted yesterday to adopt an equivalency of 500 grams of marijuana to one gram of ecstasy for sentencing purposes, up from the previous equivalency level of 35 to one. The change in effect makes ecstasy five times more serious to possess or sell than heroin on a per-dose basis.

"This is a wholly political act, not one based on scientific evidence. The scientific experts we presented in the hearing before the Commission testified unequivocally that ecstasy is not addictive and causes none of the long-term harm caused by heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine," said National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers President Edward Mallett, who also testified at Monday's hearing.

"The commissioners' stated desire was to be in line with the Justice Department, but they didn't have a rational reason to do so. This is a shameful abdication of their sworn duty as members of the judicial branch. Many sons and daughters will go to prison because they don't study federal rules before they go out on Saturday night," said Mallett.

"It is outrageous to tell young people that they'll get less punishment for heroin than for this comparatively much less dangerous drug," Mallett said. "The message is that hard narcotics aren't so bad after all."

Professors David Nichols of Purdue University and Charles Grob of UCLA testified at Monday's hearing at the request of NACDL. Both presented information about the non-addictive nature of ecstasy, as well as the lack of short- and long-term neuropsychological harm from its use. 

Mallett is a criminal defense lawyer in Houston. He can be reached at (713) 228-1521 or (713) 444-8146 (cell). Professor Nichols can be reached at (765) 494-1461. Professor Grob can be reached at (310) 222-3112. Full text of Mallett''s written testimony, and our March 19, 2001, press release containing further information about the testimony at Monday's hearing, can be found at The testimony and related materials are available by calling (202) 872-8600, ext. 228.

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The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.