#214 NY Times Crackdown On Raves Not The Answer

Date: Mon, 25 Jun 2001
Subject: #214 NY Times Crackdown On Raves Not The Answer


DrugSense FOCUS Alert #214 Monday, June 25, 2001

NY Times Crackdown on Raves Not the Answer

Ecstasy is the catalyst for the latest wave of drug hysteria to be
making headlines, leading to a crackdown on rave culture and a
stiffening of both federal and state sentencing guidelines. Following
a long standing pattern established with alcohol prohibition, the Drug
Enforcement Administration’s enforcement of drug laws is leading to
increased profitability, followed by increased violence and calls for
yet even tougher laws. The relationship between drug enforcement and
violence is especially glaring in the case of ecstasy, which is known
as the “hug drug” and enhances feelings of empathy and closeness.

A lengthy front page article in Sunday’s New York Times provides drug
policy reform activists with the opportunity to leverage numerous drug
policy reform arguments into additional coverage in the opinion pages
of one of America’s largest and most respected newspapers. Along with
prohibition-fueled violence, possible angles include the need for harm
reduction-based drug policies such as those pioneered by DanceSafe
(http://www.dancesafe.org) and speculation on how middle America will
react when white suburbanites are jailed in increasing numbers.


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Source: New York Times ( NY )
Contact: letters@nytimes.com
Please note that the New York Times limits letters to 150 words!



This article, using different titles, was printed in at least three
other newspapers on Sunday. Please click the URL line to see these
versions – and please consider writing to these newspapers too!

Contra Costa Times (CA) URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01/n1127/a08.html

Register-Guard, The (OR) URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01/n1124/a08.html

Seattle Times (WA) URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01/n1121/a13.html

By the time you receive this Alert, other target newspapers that
printed versions of the article may have been added. Click this link
to check for more Letter to the Editor targets: http://www.mapinc.org/authors/Butterfield



US: Violence Rises As Club Drug Spreads Out Into The Streets

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01/n1122/a01.html
Newshawk: Robert Field www.csdp.org www.drugwarfacts.org
Pubdate: Sun, 24 Jun 2001
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2001 The New York Times Company
Contact: letters@nytimes.com
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/298
Website: http://www.nytimes.com/
Author: Fox Butterfield


LOS ANGELES, June 21 — It was finding an Israeli drug dealer dead in
a car trunk at Los Angeles International Airport 18 months ago that
gave the authorities here the first hint that the club drug Ecstasy
was becoming a serious problem. He had been killed by two hit men from
Israel, said Drug Enforcement Administration officials.

Then there was the shipment of 2.1 million Ecstasy pills, worth $40
million on the street, that the United States Customs Service seized
at the airport last July. The pills, labeled clothing, arrived on an
Air France flight from Paris, intended for another Israeli dealer
here. The authorities say it was the world’s largest Ecstasy bust.

And now law enforcement officials say they have seen another worrisome
development this year. At a number of large all-night dance parties
called raves, drawing thousands of young people to the desert east of
Los Angeles, rival gangs have fought over the sale of Ecstasy. At one
rave at a fairgrounds at Lake Perris in March, 102 people were
arrested on charges of selling Ecstasy, assault or resisting arrest,
according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

What is happening in Los Angeles mirrors what is occurring across much
of the nation, law enforcement officials and drug experts say. Not
only is the use of Ecstasy exploding, more than doubling among 12th
graders in the last two years, but it is also spreading well beyond
its origin as a party drug for affluent white suburban teenagers to
virtually every ethnic and class group, and from big cities like New
York and Los Angeles to rural Vermont and South Dakota.

At the same time, the huge profits to be made — a tablet that costs
50 cents to manufacture in underground labs in the Netherlands can be
sold for $25 in the United States — have set off increasingly violent
turf wars among Ecstasy dealers.

“With drugs, it’s always about the money,” said Bridget Brennan, the
special narcotics prosecutor for New York City. “And the dealers are
starting to see there is so much money in Ecstasy that more people are
getting involved, and with that comes more violence.”

Homicides linked to Ecstasy dealing have occurred in recent months in
Norfolk, Va.; in Elgin, Ill., outside Chicago, and in Valley Stream,
N.Y., police records show.

This spring, in Bristow, Va., a suburb of Washington, a 21-year-old
college student, Daniel Robert Petrole Jr., was shot 10 times in the
head as he sat in his car outside a new town house he had recently
bought. According to court records, the local police believed Mr.
Petrole was responsible for distributing more than $1.5 million in
Ecstasy and marijuana in Prince William County. Two young dealers who
worked with Mr. Petrole have since been arrested and charged with
killing him.

In New York City last month, Salvatore Gravano, the former Gambino
crime family hit man, pleaded guilty to running a multimillion-dollar
Ecstasy ring in Arizona, where he was living under the federal witness
protection program. Court documents showed that Mr. Gravano was
accused of hatching four homicide plots to consolidate his control of
the Arizona drug market, and that his organization was being supplied
by Ilan Zarger, a drug dealer based in Brooklyn who had ties to the
Israeli mob.

Most Ecstasy is produced in the Netherlands or Belgium and smuggled
into the United States by Israeli or Russian organized gangs, either
flown in as air cargo or carried on commercial flights by couriers,
often dancers recruited from topless nightclubs, according to drug
enforcement and Customs Service officials.

Some Dominican groups have also become involved recently, using their
own established routes, and now sell Ecstasy along with heroin and
cocaine from drug houses in Washington Heights in Manhattan to buyers
who arrive by car from as far away as Pennsylvania, Maryland and
Virginia, the officials say.

Because it is sold as pills, Ecstasy is much easier to smuggle than
heroin, cocaine or marijuana, the authorities say. Large imported
shipments, originally flown into New York, Los Angeles or Miami, are
then broken down and sent out by regular overnight delivery services,
like Federal Express, to mid level dealers in other cities.

Ms. Brennan, the New York narcotics prosecutor, said Ecstasy was also
widely available on the Internet. Last year, her office arrested a man
in Orlando, Fla., who had been selling Ecstasy on a site called House
of Beans to customers in New York.

Seizures of Ecstasy by the Customs Service have jumped sharply, to 9.3
million pills in 2000, up from only 400,000 pills in 1997, said
Charles Winwood, the acting commissioner of the Customs Service.

The law enforcement officials and drug experts do not suggest Ecstasy
will lead to the same levels of violence or social turmoil as crack
cocaine did in the late 1980’s, when thousands of teenage dealers
armed themselves with handguns and many mothers neglected their children.

For one thing, Ecstasy does not cause the same dangerous changes in
mood and judgment as crack does. For another, crack gave only a brief
high, driving addicts back to the street repeatedly in search of
another dose and often leading them to rob or steal to support their

Ecstasy instead induces a high of up to six hours, enhancing feelings
of empathy and closeness, its users say.

But interviews with drug experts and with teenage Ecstasy addicts in
treatment programs here show that the drug, known scientifically as
MDMA, both a stimulant and a hallucinogen, can be disruptive and
expose them to violence.

“We are dancing with danger here, because the kids and their parents
think of Ecstasy as a benign party drug,” said Michele Leonhart, the
special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Los
Angeles office. “They don’t see what we see, that it’s a neurotoxin
with serious side effects, that people die from overdoses and that
some of the dances in the desert are no longer just dances, they’re
like violent crack houses set to music.”

Marcos M., a tall Hispanic teenager living in Phoenix Academy, a
residential treatment center for adolescent drug addicts run by
Phoenix House in Lake View Terrace, a suburb in the San Fernando
Valley, said he had always thought of Ecstasy as “the white man’s
drug.” In his neighborhood, Lincoln Heights — “the ghetto,” he called
it — people usually did crack or heroin. Besides, Ecstasy was too
expensive, at $25 a pill. Marcos, 17, said his attitude toward Ecstasy
was, “I’d rather spend my money on good stuff.”

But in the past year, dealers on his street suddenly started selling
Ecstasy, reducing the price to a more manageable $8 a pill.

“One day a friend was cleaning out his car and gave me a pill,” Marcos
recalled. “So I tried it, and an hour later, I was rolling – relaxed,
kicking and chilling.”

Now, he sees all ethnic groups using Ecstasy, no longer just

As with other drugs, dealers often fight over Ecstasy, Marcos said. A
dealer who is a friend of his sold a “boat,” a package of 1,000
Ecstasy pills, to another dealer, but the second dealer claimed the
delivery was short. So a fight ensued, in which his friend broke into
the other man’s house and took the drugs back, and the second dealer
then smashed his friend’s car.

The leading survey of teenage use of drugs, known as Monitoring the
Future and done by the University of Michigan, has found that the
proportion of 12th graders who had used Ecstasy in the previous 12
months more than doubled to 8 percent in 2000, from 3.5 percent in
1998. That is a very large increase, said Lloyd Johnston, a research
scientist who directs the annual survey. Among 10th graders the
percentage who had used Ecstasy in 2000 rose to 5 percent, from 3
percent in 1998.

“It is definitely continuing to increase, across all parts of the
country, and equally among males and females,” Mr. Johnston said.
Ecstasy is still enjoying a honeymoon among young people, just as LSD
did in the 1960’s, before its dangers were widely known, he said.

Jessica D., a 17-year-old high school junior who came to Phoenix
Academy from Canoga Park, a Los Angeles suburb, said she started
taking Ecstasy pills at nightclubs and raves. She soon found herself
“rolling” on the drug all the time. “I used to go to school high,” she
said, a smile brightening her face at the memory. “It made school more
fun. Class went by faster.”

Dr. Alan I. Leshner, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse
in Bethesda, Md., said, “Contrary to what a lot of people think, that
Ecstasy is a harmless drug, we are learning more and more
scientifically about its damaging effects.”

The bad short-term effects, Dr. Leshner said, are quick increases in
blood pressure, heart rates and body temperature, leading to
dehydration and hypothermia, particular problems for people who have
danced in hot, crowded rooms all night.

In the longer term, Dr. Leshner said, there is now evidence that
repeated use of Ecstasy can damage the brain cells that produce
serotonin, the neurochemical that is critical for preventing
depression and sleep disorders.

People who have used Ecstasy frequently experience memory loss and
depression when the drug wears off, Dr. Leshner said.

The contest with drug smugglers continues.

Last month, the Drug Enforcement Administration in New York announced
the arrest of Oded Tuito, who was said to head the largest
Ecstasy-smuggling organization yet identified.

Mr. Tuito, an Israeli who kept homes in New York, Los Angeles and
Paris, “imported millions of Ecstasy pills” from Paris, Brussels and
Frankfurt into New York, Miami and Los Angeles, the drug
administration charged.

His organization recruited dozens of couriers, typically dancers at
topless nightclubs, who each smuggled in 30,000 to 60,000 pills at a
time and also took hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash in drug
proceeds back to Europe, the authorities said.

To combat Ecstasy, the federal government and more than half the
states, including New York, New Jersey and Florida, have raised the
penalties for selling the drug in the past few years.

Under new federal sentencing guidelines that went into effect in May,
a person selling 800 pills can now receive a sentence of five years, a
much stiffer standard than the old threshold of 11,000 pills.

New York’s law, enacted in 1996, is tougher than the federal standard,
requiring a minimum sentence of three years for mere possession of 100

An Illinois bill, passed by the Legislature last month and awaiting
the governor’s signature, would carry the toughest penalties of all —
an automatic 6 to 30 years for selling as few as 15 pills.

State Senator Rickey Hendon warned that the Illinois law cast too wide
a net, treating teenage partygoers the same as professional drug
traffickers. But Senator Hendon, a Chicago Democrat, who is black,
said the law might help Illinois legislators understand the racial
disparities of drug laws.

“When you see 14-year-olds going to jail for a mandatory 30 years and
their complexion is no longer black,” Senator Hendon said, “maybe
we’ll stop and think about what we’re doing.”



To the editor:

Regarding the June 25th article on so-called ecstasy related violence,
the drug ecstasy promotes feelings of empathy. The prohibition of
ecstasy promotes black market profits. There is a big difference
between the unprincipled greed of organized crime and the peace, love,
unity and respect ethic of rave culture. U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration agent Michele Leonhart has a lot of nerve to be calling
rave dances “violent crack houses set to music.” Ecstasy
distributors were not gunning each other down in turf battles and when
the drug was still legal and used in psychotherapy. Don’t blame
ravers for the violence. The blame lies squarely with the insane drug
war and the parallel war against youth culture. I for one am sick of
my tax dollars being used to subsidize organized crime so that the
shameless bureaucrats at the DEA can then use the resulting violence
to justify ever-expanding budgets.

Robert Sharpe

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published letter is only 113 words long, with a range from 45 to 143

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