Donnie R. Marshall
Drug Enforcement Administration
Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control
March 21, 2001
Note: This document may not reflect changes made in actual delivery.
Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Biden, distinguished members of the Caucus: I am pleased to have this opportunity to appear before you today for the purpose of discussing our continuing efforts to address the dangers and concerns associated with MDMA, the club drug known as "Ecstasy." As always, I would first like to preface my remarks by thanking the Caucus for its unwavering support of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and overall support of drug law enforcement.
In recent months, there has been encouraging news regarding our efforts against illegal drug use. Numerous surveys indicate that overall drug use is down, and that the number of teens willing to try or use illegal drugs continues to decline. Unfortunately, the advances that we are making are being partially set back by a rapid growth in the popularity of "club drugs." This frustrating trend is most clearly exemplified by the club drug Ecstasy, a Schedule I synthetic psychoactive drug possessing both stimulant and hallucinogenic properties. Recent estimates suggest that 10% of high school seniors have tried Ecstasy—nearly double the amount estimated in 1995.
Ecstasy is a dangerous drug—deceptively dangerous. For this reason, the widespread growth of Ecstasy use has been nothing short of alarming. Records compiled by the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) indicate that Ecstasy related emergency room incidents have increased from 1143 in 1998 to 2,850 in 1999, the last full year for which data is available. In 2000, DEA seized over 3 million tablets of Ecstasy, compared to slightly over 1 million tablets in the previous year. Shrouded in the fallacy of safety perpetuated by traffickers and rave promoters, Ecstasy is marketed as a "hug drug" or "love drug" at rave parties, all to the immense profit of traffickers, and the detriment of misinformed youths.
We are frequently reminded that our future rests with the young people of this great nation. As suggested by the title of this hearing, "America at Risk: The Ecstasy Threat," America is indeed at risk, and Ecstasy has shown itself to be a formidable threat. Accordingly, we must confront this threat by educating parents and children on the dangers of the drug, and taking aggressive law enforcement action against those who choose to defy the law by trafficking in Ecstasy. Enhancements to the sentencing guidelines will undoubtedly increase DEA's ability to neutralize this threat, and will send a powerful deterrent message to Ecstasy traffickers that their punishment will now be commensurate with what we are rapidly recognizing as the true level of harm perpetrated by this drug on the youth of America.
MDMA and the "Rave" Scene: A Rapidly Growing Threat
The use of synthetic drugs has become a popular method of enhancing the club and rave experience. These rave functions, which are parties known for loud techno-music and dancing, regularly host several thousand teenagers and young adults, many of whom use MDMA, LSD, GHB, Rohypnol, or Ketamine. The drugs may be taken alone, or in various combinations. Typically, nightclubs, bars, parties, and raves attract local teenagers, college students, and young adults who, should they choose to indulge in club drugs, face substantial health risks—including death—all in the interest of having a good time.
Raves began as gatherings of thousands and revolved around techno music. They originated in England and were traditionally held in large warehouses or open outdoor areas. These events then moved into established clubs and were identified by police as "Drug Taking Festivals." In the late 1980s, the rave scene migrated to the United States by way of promoters and entertainers. In the early 1990s, their popularity increased, and they were firmly established as a subculture. Raves, under any name, are a lucrative business and are frequently the sites of crimes such as pharmaceutical diversion, rape, property damage, gang violence, drug sales, robberies, assaults, and murder.
Typically, rave goers are between 12 and 25 years old, of various ethnic backgrounds and national origins, and of differing sexual preferences. They are generally from middle to upper middle class economic backgrounds.
Raves are organized, promoted, and financed by local and national enterprises. Organizers may employ bands, disk jockeys, or both. Advertising is conducted through the use of flyers, posters, telephone, radio, and the Internet, all of which entice the prospective participants to attend. Many events are advertised as "alcohol free," giving party-goers and parents a false sense of security.
Raves feature hard, rapidly pounding music that is usually accompanied by psychedelic lights, videos, smoke, fog, and simulated pyrotechnic displays. A typical rave club layout might consist of a large dance area with no air conditioning, a separate "cool down room," and a VIP Room. The high temperature environment serves to optimize the sale of water, which is marketed by party promoters at exorbitant prices. Raves are often scheduled at unusual hours (e.g., 10:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m.) to avoid local curfew restrictions. In addition, "After Hours Clubs" have opened to extend the rave experience. These clubs also advertise alcohol-free parties, and often remain open until noon.
Paraphernalia used at rave parties include menthol nasal inhalers, Vicks Vapor Rub, eye drops, surgical masks, and glow sticks (to enhance the visual effects of Ecstasy). These items are frequently accompanied by Skittles, M&Ms, or similar candy containers (to hide the drug); lollipops and pacifiers (to prevent involuntary teeth clenching); water, juice, sports drinks, and soft drinks (sold at inflated prices and used to manage excessive body heat and dehydration); and drug testing kits to allow rave-goers to test the purity of the drug.
Club drugs have become such an integral part of the rave circuit that there no longer appears to be an attempt to conceal their use. Traditional and non-traditional sources continue to report the flagrant and open use of drugs at raves. Intelligence indicates that it has also become commonplace for security personnel at these parties to ignore drug use and sales on the premises. All of these factors, and the fact that many teens do not perceive these drugs as harmful or dangerous, make the rave experience a truly threatening development.
MDMA: The Fallacy of the "Feel Good" Drug
MDMA (3, 4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) also known as Ecstasy, is a Schedule I synthetic, psychoactive drug possessing stimulant and hallucinogenic properties.
Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) estimates reveal that nationwide hospital emergency room mentions for MDMA rose dramatically from 1,143 in 1998 to 2850 in 1999. Seizures of MDMA have also increased drastically. Seizures of MDMA tablets submitted to DEA laboratories have risen from a total of 1,054,973 in 1999 to 3,045,041 in 2000. DEA arrests for MDMA violations also increased from 681 in 1999 to 1,456 in 2000. Similarly, the number of DEA initiated cases targeting MDMA violators increased from 278 in 1999 to 670 in 2000.
Users of drugs such as MDMA report that the effects of the drug heighten the user's perceptions, which are especially sensitive to visual stimulation. Quite often, users of MDMA at clubs will dance with "light sticks" to increase their sensory input. Legal over-the-counter products such as Vicks Vapor Rub are also used to enhance the effects of the drug. The state of being "high" on Ecstasy is also referred to as "rolling." Individuals usually experiment by "stacking," a term used to describe taking three or more tablets at once, or by "piggy-backing," which is the consumption of a series of pills over a short period of time. When users want to "come down" from the effects of Ecstasy, they will often resort to using other drugs. The unpredictable purity levels and unknown origins of these drugs, especially when used in combination with one another, pose a tremendous danger to club drug users.
MDMA use can sometimes result in severe dehydration or exhaustion, or other adverse effects such as nausea, hallucinations, chills, sweating, increases in body temperature, tremors, involuntary teeth clenching, muscle cramping, and blurred vision. MDMA users have also reported after-effects such as anxiety, paranoia, and depression. An MDMA overdose is characterized by high blood pressure, faintness, panic attacks, and, in more severe cases, loss of consciousness, seizures, and a drastic rise in body temperature. MDMA overdoses can be fatal, as they may result in heart failure or extreme heat stroke.
In 1998, the National Institute of Mental Health conducted a study of a small group of habitual MDMA users who had abstained from use for approximately 2-3 weeks. The study revealed that the abstinent users suffered damage to the neurons in the brain that transmit serotonin, an important biochemical involved in a variety of critical functions including learning, sleep, and integration of emotion. The results of the study indicate that recreational MDMA users may be at risk of developing permanent brain damage that may manifest itself in the form of depression, anxiety, memory loss, and other neuropsychotic disorders.
MDMA Trafficking: Merchants of Death
MDMA is manufactured clandestinely in western Europe, primarily in The Netherlands and Belgium, which produce 90% of the MDMA consumed worldwide. A typical clandestine laboratory is capable of producing 20 - 30 kilograms of MDMA per day, with one kilogram of MDMA consisting of approximately 3,500 tablets. Dutch Police reported the seizure of one laboratory capable of producing approximately 100 kilograms (350,000 tablets) of MDMA per day.
Most often, MDMA consumed in the United States is manufactured by Dutch chemists, and transported or distributed by various factions of Israeli Organized Crime groups. These groups recruit and utilize American, Israeli and western European nationals as couriers. These couriers can smuggle anywhere from 2.5 to 5 kilograms on their person, and up to 10 kilograms in specially designed luggage. In addition to the use of couriers, these organizations exploit the parcel mail, DHL, UPS, and U.S. Postal Service to facilitate delivery of their merchandise. Due to the size of the MDMA tablet, concealment is much easier than other traditional drugs (i.e. cocaine, heroin and marijuana) smuggled in kilogram-size packages.
The drug trafficking organizations involved in MDMA distribution are brought together by the enormous profit realized in these ventures. As MDMA has traditionally been manufactured abroad, these organizations are multi-lingual and multi-national in nature. Although estimates vary, the cost of producing an MDMA tablet can run between $.50 - $1.00. The wholesale, or first level price for MDMA tablets have ranged from $1.00-$2.00 per tablet, contingent on the volume purchased. The potential four-fold profit presented by this pricing arrangement provides huge incentives for the clandestine laboratory owner or chemist. Furthermore, manufacturing laboratories can frequently realize these profits without coming into contact with anyone other than first level transportation or distribution representatives. This limited number of required contacts reduces the manufacturer's risk of law enforcement infiltration or detection.
Once the MDMA reaches the United States, a domestic cell distributor will charge from $6 to $8 per tablet. The MDMA retailer will, in turn, distribute the MDMA for $25 to $40 per tablet. As evidenced by the mark-up at each tier of the distribution continuum, there is clearly a tremendous profit to be realized at each stage of the MDMA trafficking process. Consequently, to date, the incentives created by profits from MDMA trafficking dwarf the perceived deterrent effects of existing trafficking penalties.
MDMA traffickers utilize all major airports in Europe as transshipment points for MDMA destined for the United States. Los Angeles, New York and Miami are currently the major "gateway cities" for the influx of MDMA from abroad. These three cities reflect the greatest number of arrests and seizures of MDMA within our borders. The largest MDMA seizure in the United States occurred in Los Angeles, California, where DEA and U.S. Customs seized over 700 pounds of the drug. Because of increased law enforcement awareness, Israeli traffickers are adjusting their routes and modes of transportation in order to circumvent detection and interdiction by law enforcement officials. These adjustments include a shift in transportation routes from these three "gateway cities" to other ports of entry in the United States.
Diversification: The Emergence of Colombian and Dominican MDMA Traffickers
Currently, Israeli and Russian MDMA trafficking organizations dominate the MDMA market in the United States. As Ecstasy proves more profitable and as law enforcement pressures force the traffickers to re-group, the U.S. MDMA trade will become increasingly diverse. Other drug trafficking organizations based in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Asia, and Mexico, will likely garner a portion-- possibly a significant portion--of the MDMA trade in the future.
In February 1999, the Department of Administrative Security (DAS) in Cali seized Colombia's only known MDMA laboratory. The trafficking organization responsible for this laboratory reportedly had a distribution network throughout Colombia, as well as in Mexico and in Miami, Florida. According to the DAs, this trafficking organization was able to manufacture 3,000 tablets every eight days and to sell each tablet on the black market for the equivalent of US$23. This may denote an experimentation phase of MDMA production in Colombia. On August 17, 2000, British authorities seized a parcel containing 3,900 MDMA tablets at Heathrow International Airport. The parcel arrived on a British Airlines flight from Bogota, Colombia. Each pill contained 18% MDMA, which is lower purity than a typical MDMA pill. It has not been confirmed at this time if the MDMA was produced in Colombia.
Dominican drug trafficking organizations, which have been preeminent in the crack trade on the east coast, are also becoming increasingly involved in MDMA distribution. Dominican organizations operating in the United States are smuggling MDMA into the country from European countries, particularly the Netherlands and Belgium. Several identified Dominican MDMA traffickers have obtained Dutch passports to in order to facilitate their travel from the Netherlands to the Caribbean and the United States. During calendar year 2000, approximately 125,100 MDMA pills were seized from Dominican drug trafficking organizations at international airports in the Dominican Republic. During the same time period, approximately 350,000 MDMA pills were seized from Dominican nationals acting as drug couriers at U.S. airports.
Dominican organizations/Dominican nationals involved in MDMA trafficking have been identified in cities such as Miami, Newark, New York, Boston, and San Juan. According to the El Paso Intelligence Center, nearly 312,000 tablets were seized from passengers arriving in the United States from the Dominican Republic between October 1999 and September 15, 2000. Seven of those seizures occurred in New York, seven in Newark, five in Miami, and four in San Juan.
MDMA destined for the United States increasingly transits the Caribbean, particularly Aruba, the Bahamas, Curacao, the Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Netherlands Antilles, Puerto Rico, and Suriname. A portion of the MDMA shipped through the Caribbean is destined for various Caribbean Islands, most likely for sale to tourists who are vacationing in the region.
The DEA Santo Domingo Country Office reports that MDMA is smuggled into the island nation from the Netherlands. Puerto Plata is the Dominican Republic's most popular tourist location. Between December and February, over 150 incoming flights per week arrive at the Puerto Plata International Airport. During the same three-month period, between 12,000 and 18,000 German tourists arrive on the island.
Intelligence indicates that some Dominican MDMA trafficking organizations are using the smuggling techniques that have been traditionally associated with Dominican and Nigerian based heroin and cocaine trafficking organizations, such as couriers ingesting MDMA. For instance, one arrested courier had ingested 67 pellets of MDMA.
In August 2000, the Brazilian National Police (DPF) authorities seized a small-scale clandestine MDMA laboratory in Sao Paulo, the first such laboratory seized in Brazil. The DPF officials seized 2.6 kilograms of MDMA as well as the chemicals with the potential to produce approximately 10,000 capsules per month. Brazil is the largest producer of chemicals in South America with approximately 24,500 chemical handlers registered in the country. This availability of chemicals coupled with weak enforcement of chemical diversion, could potentially foster the continuance of MDMA processing in Brazil.
The following incidents further illustrate the increased diversification of MDMA traffickers:
- In March 2001, Panamanian authorities arrested six individuals, including three Colombian nationals, and seized 300 kilograms of cocaine and approximately 18,000 MDMA pills. The source of the MDMA is unknown.
- In February 2001, several Colombian nationals were arrested and 187,500 MDMA pills were seized in Miami, Florida. The source of the MDMA is unknown.
- On February 8, 2001, a Bolivian resident was arrested in New York in possession of 15,000 MDMA pills. Although the source region of this MDMA is unknown, the individual had a false Portuguese passport, which may indicate that he traveled from a location in Europe.
- In October 2000, several Colombians nationals were arrested in Orlando, Florida on MDMA-related charges. The source of the MDMA is unknown.
- In November 2000, Dutch authorities arrested eight individuals, including several Colombian nationals, and seized 12 kilograms of cocaine, 26 kilograms of heroin, and 31 kilograms of MDMA.
- In December 2000, Panamanian authorities seized approximately 1,100 MDMA pills and arrested a Panamanian and a Colombian national. The source region for this MDMA is unknown.
- In October 2000, two Dominican nationals were arrested at the Punta Cana International Airport in possession of 26,000 MDMA pills. The two individuals had arrived in the Dominican Republic aboard a Martinair flight from Holland.
Driven by the huge profits that can be derived from MDMA trafficking, the number of Colombian nationals engaged in this activity will likely continue to increase. Colombian and other South American drug trafficking organizations may have significant ties to Spain due to the cultural and linguistic links that it offers to these traffickers. Accordingly, Spain is increasingly being used as a transshipment country for MDMA shipments destined for South America.
We will continue to monitor any changes in MDMA trafficking by Colombian and/or Dominican based organizations which would indicate an increased number of MDMA laboratories, as well as an increase in the production capacity of those MDMA laboratories in Colombia. To date, only one relatively small MDMA laboratory has been seized in Colombia, which may indicate that production is in an experimentation phase.
Europe will most likely remain the primary source region for MDMA seized from Colombian and Dominican nationals, at least, in the near term. Current evidence does not support the unconfirmed reports that significant quantities of MDMA sold in the United States are now being produced in either Colombia or Mexico. Incentives, such as established clandestine laboratories and secure trafficking routes to the United States, exist for criminal organizations desiring to manufacture MDMA in the Americas. However, it appears, at least for now, that MDMA production is securely entrenched in Europe.
MDMA production also appears to be gaining a foothold in Asia. Canadian authorities reportedly have seized MDMA manufactured in Asia from an Asian Organized Crime group. Given the ready availability of precursor chemicals in Asia, it is possible that Asian production of MDMA will increase in the future.
Dominican and/or Colombian nationals smuggling cocaine to Europe may seek to exchange their cocaine for MDMA pills, a significant quantity of which will be destined for U.S. cities. For example, one organization operating in the United States reportedly exchanges cocaine for MDMA at a rate of one kilogram of cocaine for 13,000 MDMA pills.
Investigative Efforts: Confronting the Threat
In July, 1997, DEA established Operation Flashback in an effort to target organizations and individuals that distribute and manufacture club drugs. On July 2, 1998, MDMA was approved for inclusion under this Special Enforcement Program. Since February 1998, the number of active investigations included under this program have increased from 6 to 158, reflecting heightened law enforcement emphasis on the increased availability and demand for club drugs. Operation Flashback seeks to achieve the following five primary objectives:
1. Develop prosecutable cases against individuals and organizations that manufacture and distribute "club drugs;"
2. Develop intelligence links between domestic wholesale distributors and the foreign sources of supply;
3. Identify, arrest, and prosecute violators at a high level of distribution, including the clandestine lab operators;
4. Establish and coordinate an overall strategy for all domestic and foreign investigative efforts;
5. Identify the command and control infrastructures of organizations that are distributing "club drugs."
During this time, DEA has completed a number of significant investigations that have dismantled global MDMA trafficking organizations, as well as limited the effectiveness of rave parties as a venue for distributing club drugs. These investigations are pending prosecution, so I will have to limit my remarks until the prosecutions are completed.
The State Palace Theater Investigation, which was conducted by the DEA New Orleans Division in conjunction with the New Orleans Police Department and the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Orleans, serves as an excellent model of the resourcefulness of law enforcement in addressing the threat of club drugs. In this instance, investigators applied 21 U.S.C. 856, which is informally designated as the "crack house statute," for the purpose of securing federal search warrants in furtherance of investigating club drug sales at rave parties. The statute makes it unlawful to "manage or control any building, room, or enclosure…and knowingly and intentionally rent, lease, or make available for use…for the purpose of unlawfully manufacturing, storing, distributing, or using a controlled substance."
During the course of this investigation, DEA agents learned that over the past two years, from 400 to 500 teenagers and young adults had been treated at local emergency rooms for overdose related illnesses following their attendance at rave events hosted by the State Palace Theater in New Orleans, Louisiana. On July 30th, 2000, the New Orleans Field Division conducted their eighth and final undercover operation at the State Palace Theater. As with the other operations, the undercover agents made numerous purchases of controlled substances and filmed the distribution and use of numerous controlled substances.
On August 26th, 2000, DEA agents, in conjunction with the New Orleans Police Department, executed federal search warrants at the State Palace Theater rave venue, as well as an affiliated corporate office, Rene Brunet, Inc. While this investigation is ongoing, we are hopeful that more investigations along the lines of the State Palace Theater investigation will have an impact on shutting down raves.
Other Community Initiatives
Law enforcement authorities in other parts of the country have implemented equally resourceful strategies to address club drug use at rave venues. After the detection of rave promotion flyers in Florence County, South Carolina, DEA and the Florence County Sheriff's Office were able to obtain a court order against the rave promoters on the basis of health code violations. The lack of sufficient water supply and inadequate toilet facilities at the designated rave location were cited. The rave promoters advertised another rave event in Horey County, South Carolina, and were again deterred. Although these efforts were successful for South Carolina, they resulted in the displacement of the rave promoters across state lines to North Carolina. Efforts are now underway in North Carolina to further deter the raves from these communities as well.
Igor ZAGRUZNY Trafficking Organization
Similarly, the DEA Los Angeles Division conducted an international investigation targeting a Russian organized crime group, which was distributing large amounts of MDMA throughout southern California. In November, 1999, Los Angeles DEA agents made an undercover purchase of 1,000 MDMA tablets from Igor ZAGRUZNY and his associate, Michael FLOWERS. On December 21, 1999, as a result of coordinated investigative actions with DEA, the U.S. Customs Service seized 100 pounds of MDMA at the Federal Express hub in Memphis, Tennessee. A controlled delivery was initiated by U.S. Customs, resulting in the seizure of an additional 600 pounds of MDMA, $2.3 million, and the arrest of five individuals.
Further investigation resulted in the arrests of Zagruzny associates Josef YAVETZ and Michael HELO in Germany with 190 pounds of MDMA. At the time of their arrest, a total of six Federal Express receipts for six packages containing MDMA destined for Los Angeles, California were recovered from both defendants.
On September 16th, 2000, Dutch police officials arrested DEA fugitive Tamer-Adel IBRAHIM in a hotel room in The Hague, Netherlands. IBRAHIM was the intended recipient of 2.1 million tablets of MDMA seized in Los Angeles on July 22, 2000. DEA will continue to assist Dutch counterparts in the follow-up aspects of this investigation.
Recent Legislative Developments: The Advantages of Enhanced Penalties
As you are aware, The Ecstasy Anti-Proliferation Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-310), enacted by Congress last year, directs the U.S. Sentencing Commission to provide for increased penalties for the manufacture, importation, exportation, and trafficking of Ecstasy. As presently classified, MDMA sentencing guidelines, through a conversion process, are equivalent to marijuana sentencing guidelines. As the guidelines are presently configured, a first-time offender arrested with 10 kilograms of methamphetamine has an exposure of 20-25 years, while an MDMA trafficker potentially faces 5-6 years incarceration for the identical amount.
The new sentencing guidelines called for by Public Law 106-310 will offer federal drug law enforcement a valuable tool in fighting the drug trafficking organizations which are plaguing our young people with "club" drugs like Ecstasy. There are three prongs to this valuable tool:
1) Greater likelihood of federal prosecution;
2) More appropriate terms of imprisonment for mid and high level dealers;
3) More effective leverage in turning low level distributors to assist in apprehending and prosecuting the top level violators in these drug trafficking organizations.
Let me address each one of these prongs. First, each day the brave men and women of federal drug law enforcement take immeasurable risks to pursue the world's major drug trafficking organizations. Under the pre-amendment sentencing structure, the potential sentences for MDMA violators are often too low to warrant taking such cases to trial. And the traffickers know this. They know that even if they are caught, the likelihood that they will go to prison for very long is greatly diminished. Consequently, the guidelines offer little deterrent effect under the pre-amendment structure. With an increase in the sentences for Ecstasy traffickers and with more prosecutions of substantial violators, we can strengthen the fight against the major trafficking organizations which pose a threat to our young people.
Along those lines, the pre-amendment sentencing arrangement for Ecstasy trafficking does not reflect the serious nature of distributing this drug to teenagers and young adults. Despite the popular notion, particularly among our young people, that Ecstasy is a "safe" drug, the number of emergency room visits related to Ecstasy and other club drugs has risen dramatically in the last few years. In view of the relatively low age of MDMA abusers and the rapid spread of the drug, it is clear that base offense levels for MDMA are too low. As I discussed earlier, Ecstasy can kill, and new evidence suggests that repeated exposure to Ecstasy will lead to long term negative health consequences, including depression, memory loss, and sleep disorders. The pre-amendment sentencing guidelines do not adequately send the message that Ecstasy is a dangerous drug in the same class as heroin. By adopting increased sentences for Ecstasy trafficking we can send a message to the dealers that we won't stand by idly while they threaten America's young people.
Finally, one frustrating aspect of the pre-amendment sentencing structure for Ecstasy is the manner in which it insulates the top levels of drug organizations. Typically, the manufacturers and top dealers rely on subordinate distribution cells to carry out the street level dealing of illegal drugs. These subordinates act as a buffer between drug law enforcement and the higher echelons of the drug trafficking organizations. Due to the leniency of the sentencing guidelines, MDMA has become more attractive to those individuals or organizations that might have otherwise sought to avoid drug trafficking due to potential lengthy prison terms associated with the trafficking of drugs such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.
With the apparent emergence of Colombian and Dominican based trafficking organizations into the MDMA trade, there is a distinct possibility that MDMA shipments will be co-mingled with cocaine and heroin loads from South America that are destined for the U.S. market. Dutch and Panamanian authorities have already encountered Colombian nationals with similarly mixed drug shipments, and it is likely that American law enforcement can expect to encounter the same. Increased penalties for distributing harmful drugs such as Ecstasy will allow DEA and federal drug law enforcement to target the manufacturers, international traffickers, and high level dealers who are at the root of the club drug epidemic.
The application of enhanced penalties, as called for by P.L. 106-310, will increase sentences approximately three-fold, and would act as a viable deterrent, thereby offsetting the immense profits that entice prospective traffickers. In addition, enhanced penalties would give agents and prosecutors more leverage when negotiating plea bargains and cooperation agreements with defendants. Two recent investigations conducted by the Long Island Resident Office clearly illustrate this point. In one case, a trafficker was charged with distributing in excess of 200,000 MDMA tablets, and was sentenced to only 6.5 years imprisonment. A co-defendant charged with distributing 300,000 tablets was sentenced to only 7.5 years imprisonment. Under the enhanced sentencing guidelines, these same traffickers would potentially receive prison sentences in excess of 18 years.
It should be noted that another recently-enacted statute, The Hillory J. Farias and Samantha Reid Date-Rape Prevention Drug Act of 1999, (Public Law l06-172) contains a statutory obligation that requires DEA to establish a special unit to assess the abuse and trafficking of GHB, Flunitrazepam, ketamine, and other controlled substances designated as club or designer drugs, whose use has been associated with sexual assaults. In addition, the Attorney General was directed to develop a protocol for the collection of evidence and the taking of victim statements in connection with violations of the Controlled Substances Act which result in or contribute to sexual assault, crimes of violence, or other crimes involving the abuse of GHB and other designer drugs.
Recommendations for Demand Reduction: Knowledge is Power
To focus national attention on the MDMA threat, DEA hosted the International Conference on Ecstasy and Club Drugs in partnership with approximately 300 officials from domestic and foreign law enforcement, judicial, chemical, prevention and treatment communities. The conference was held from July 31, 2000 to August 2, 2000 at DEA Headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. During the conference, a working group developed several demand reduction objectives which have been institutionalized by DEA. These objectives include:
- Providing accurate, complete, and current information on the scientific findings and medical effects of club drugs on the human body: DEA must publicize the science-based research websites and publications of the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP), the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), and others in a way that is more palatable to youthful consumers. In addition, DEA needs to continue the purchase of internet "keywords" to ensure anti-drug messages are seen first, and to develop information brochures for wide distribution;
- Working with local, state, and other federal agencies and nonprofit organizations in an effort to advance drug education and prevention;
- Enhancing parental knowledge of raves and club drugs and engage their active participation in education and prevention of drug abuse: This can be done by consolidating and reproducing conference videos to enable parents to see what is going on inside raves, dance clubs, and other places that they perceive to be "safe." DEA needs to ensure wide distribution of educational videos and other materials to Demand Reduction professionals, Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) Officers, and others. In addition, existing parent forums such as Parent-to-Parent, PTA's and Faith Community Groups must be re-energized, and new parent educational programs must be developed.
- Educating high school and college students on the realities of raves and the effects of club drugs on the human body. The education of high school and college students on the realities of raves and the effects of club drugs in the human body is a necessary part of DEA's demand reduction program. Institutions of higher education that receive federal funds are required under the Higher Education Act to implement a drug and alcohol abuse prevention program for students and staff, and the DEA, working with the Department of Education, must focus institutions' efforts on meeting this requirement. In addition, DEA must help to ensure that campus police are fully trained and aware of club drugs. Lastly, drug education funds should be made available to student leaders and campus organizations.
In an effort to reach out to the highly vulnerable population of high school and younger students, schools must use peer-to-peer education strategies to make teens aware of the dangers of club drugs. Additional solutions include the use of demand reduction programs to create alternative social activities, and enlist the help of the entertainment industry to facilitate drug education agendas.
As a follow-up to last year's conference, DEA is planning a series of Regional Club Drug Conferences, which will serve the purpose of taking DEA's demand reduction message out to a variety of selected communities. The first of these regional conferences has been scheduled to take place in Atlantic City, New Jersey during May 2-3, 2001. Hosted by the DEA Newark Division in conjunction with the New Jersey State Police, and New Jersey Prevention Network, the conference will also focus on providing community based solutions to problems relating to the abuse of club drugs. It is anticipated that participants from Pennsylvania and Delaware will also be attending. Future regional conferences will be held in Austin, Texas, San Diego, California, Chicago, Illinois.
In closing, I would like to reiterate that no one solution will completely neutralize the threat to America posed by club drugs such as Ecstasy. However, by applying a "holistic approach," utilizing a well coordinated combination of programs that include Demand Reduction, Education, Treatment, and a Law Enforcement strategy that makes maximum use of realistic penalties that reflect the destructive nature of Ecstasy trafficking, the likelihood of our success is immeasurably increased.
I thank you for providing me the opportunity to address the Caucus, and I look forward to taking any questions you may have on this important issue.