British Columbia’s top health official: “ecstasy is safe, legalize it”

I think most Burners would agree that Prohibition doesn’t work. So it’s refreshing to see an increasing number of Law Enforcement officers and senior officials advocating treating narcotics the way we treat all the other drugs in our brave new pharmacological society. The latest high profile announcement comes from Dr Perry Kendall, the Chief Provincial Health Officer from Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada).

Dr Perry Kendall, Vancouver B.C.

Dr. Perry Kendall asserts the risks of MDMA — the pure substance originally synonymous with ecstasy — are overblown, and that its lethal dangers only arise when the man-made chemical is polluted by money-hungry gangs who cook it up.

That’s why the chief provincial health officer is advocating MDMA be legalized and sold through licensed, government-run stores where the product is strictly regulated from assembly line to check-out.

“[If] you knew what a safe dosage was, you might be able to buy ecstasy like you could buy alcohol from a government-regulated store,” Kendall said in an interview.

He posits that usage rates would decrease.

Usage rates would decrease if ecstasy was legal? Errr, I don’t think so. It sure doesn’t seem like people have cut back on smoking marijuana in California. But nobody dies from that…

At least 16 people from B.C. to Saskatchewan have died since last July from a tainted batch of ecstasy they obtained from criminal dealers, the only way an average person can acquire the drug in Canada. It was cut with a toxin called PMMA.

Police say an average of 20 British Columbians who consume street ecstasy die each year.

Kendall and several other health colleagues liken the mutation of MDMA into a contaminated street drug to the wave of bootleg beverages during the 1920s prohibition era.

“Methyl alcohol led to huge rates of morbidity and mortality in the United States under alcohol prohibition because of illicit alcohol manufacturing,” said Dr. Evan Wood, a lead researcher at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and internationally-recognized expert in drug addiction and related policies.

“PMMA is a natural and expected consequence of the prohibition on ecstasy.”

A recent study in the UK by medical journal The Lancet ranked  methylenedioxymethamphetamine #17 out of the 20 most harmful drugs (alcohol, of course, was #1).

MDMA ranked 17 out of 20 drugs when compared in terms of their harms, below No.1-rated alcohol, and other drugs including heroin, cocaine, tobacco, pot and steroids, according to a U.K. analysis published in The Lancet in 2010.

The research was conducted by Professor David Nutt, a former chief adviser on drugs to the British government, who asked drug-harm experts to rank both legal and illegal drugs on 16 measures of harm to the user and to wider society. Nutt found the legal status of most drugs bears little relation to their harms.

As you might expect, the cops – in this case the Royal Canadian Mounted Police – have a different view on the matter from the Nutty professor. What would they do all day, if they didn’t have junkies and stoners to lock up? Pursuing real criminals can be dangerous, who wants danger when there’s donuts to be eaten?

The RCMP in B.C., who have a team dedicated to dismantling clandestine drug labs, maintain no amount of the substance is safe.

“We would view ecstasy as extremely dangerous,” said Sgt. Duncan Pound, adding police don’t distinguish between MDMA and the street drug in terms of enforcement or prevention strategies.

“Not only given the fact that it’s very hard to determine what might be in any given tablet, but the fact that there’s such an individual reaction to those tablets.”

The medical establishment widely agrees MDMA is not addictive. But new research suggests some of the drug’s long-stated ill effects are exaggerated. MAPS sounds like a great organization, dispensing psychedelics in the name of academic research. “I’ve studied MDMA for 15 years”…hmmm, sounds like a Burner!

Using MDMA does nothing to impair cognitive functioning, found one U.S. government-funded study published in the journal Addiction in February 2011.

Dr. John Halpern, a Harvard Medical School assistant professor who led the research, said pure MDMA can change core body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure in the short-term, and decrease immune resistance for a few days.

“But barring that, it appears … it can be safely administered, certainly through research,” said Halpern, who has studied MDMA for 15 years and advocates for medical, prescription-based use of the drug.

…The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies has also administered MDMA to more than 500 people in various FDA-approved clinical trials, and there has never been a serious adverse event.

“Meaning that nobody has ever required any medical attention whatsoever from overheating or from a heart attack or from a stroke or from blood pressure going up,” said Rick Doblin, who has a doctorate in public policy from Harvard and founded the privately-funded organization in 1986.

 

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