Law enforcement asks governor to sign drug bill
OREGON, ILOgle County Sheriff Mel Messer and States Attorney Doug Floski are joining law enforcement officials around the state in asking Gov. George Ryan to sign a bill that would create stiffer penalties for the sale of club drugs such as Ecstasy.
Illinois House and Senate members have approved a bill that would make it a Class X Felony and create mandatory prison terms for anyone who sells more than 15 grams of Ecstasy. Current law does not impose a prison term unless more than 200 grams of the drug are sold.
Ecstasy is a designer or club drug popular among young people, but is usually sold by seasoned drug dealers, who have access to labs where the drug is made. It is a stimulant which creates a sense of well-being by altering sensory perception, similar to the effects of LSD.
Floski said law enforcement officials pushed for the legislation, written by DuPage County States Attorney Joseph Birkett, because current drug laws do not properly address the designer drug market, which includes Ecstasy.
Like LSD, very little Ecstasy is used to achieve the high, Floski said. However, because its a stimulant, the penalties are based on weight. The way the law is written, its like saying you have to sell a minor a semi-truckload full of whiskey in order to face a stiff penalty, and we know that isnt how the drug is sold.
For us to charge someone with a Class X Felony for selling Ecstasy, they have to sell about 900 pills in one drug deal, Messer said. The way the drug is used, in small amounts and usually by teens who just buy enough for a weekend party, no one would sell that amount in most communities in Illinois.
Contrast that to the fact that selling as few as 15 doses of LSD can bring a six-year sentence.
The law on Gov. Ryans desk states that selling any drug that contains MDMA (methylenediox-methamphetamine) becomes a Class X Felony, carrying a mandatory prison term of at least six years. Currently, selling less than $10,000 worth of the drug is probationable.
We need this law to realistically address the way these drugs are sold, Floski said. And we need this law to curb the spread of drugs that are increasingly appealing to children as young as sixth grade.
Ogle County has not had any Ecstasy arrests yet. However, in the last year alone, at least three young people have died in Illinois by overdosing on designer drugs containing MDMA.
The federal Drug Enforcement Agency reports that the use of Ecstasy has soared, in part because the penalties are so light. Ecstasy from underground production labs in Europe is flooding the U.S. market with hundreds of reports of the drug in Illinois last year. Federal agents say they seized more than 11 million tablets in 1999, compared to just 1.2 million the year before.