Pubdate: Wed, 14 Jun 2000
Source: Herald & Review (IL)
Copyright: 2000 Herald & Review
Contact:  The Editor, PO Box 311, Decatur, IL  62525-0311
Fax: (217) 421-6913
Author: Keith Brilhart, Decatur


The news item, "GOP leader wants tougher ecstasy laws," in the June 2
Herald & Review said Minority Leader Lee Daniels, R-Elmhurst, wants to
increase penalties for selling ecstasy.

Not only is the increase in penalties (six to 30 years) an  expensive
proposition, but the basis for such action is far from clear.  Simply
put, Daniels is trying to look tough on crime by offering a knee-jerk
response to hysteria.

The concerns about ecstasy seem to have taken many by surprise.  Users
don't hurt anybody, but a handful of deaths have been attributed to
the drug.  Looking beneath the surface gives a picture that suggests
ecstasy isn't the threat many are trying to make it out to be.  An
article in the June 5 edition of Time magazine, "The lure of ecstasy,"
gives a balanced history of this drug, pointing out that about 40
percent of pills sold as being ecstasy contained no ecstasy at all, a
fact that may have a lot to do with the so called "ecstasy-related

Dr. Phillip Jenkins, author of the book "Synthetic Panics: The Symbolic
Politics of Designer Drugs," uses the term "moral entrepreneurs" for those
who would try to make gain based on something which can elicit moral
concern when poorly understood.  I think Daniels appears to be such a
"moral entrepreneur" with this proposal.  The wise thing is to wait until
more information is available and to make sure it is from a balanced list
of sources.

Daniels should be rewarded with a loss in his next election, for that
is the only appropriate reward for a scoundrel who would ruin lives,
waste taxpayer money and initiate a peaceful group of people into
violence -- all based on an incomplete understanding of an issue.

Keith Brilhart
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