La Trobe Law School Graduate Ignites Ecstasy Debate with Honours Thesis Publication

By Joshua Donelly

In 2012, Emeritus Professor David Penington AC proposed that the use and possession of small amounts of 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methamphetamine (MDMA or ecstasy) for personal use be decriminalised, and the drug made available from a licensed professional supplier. This model would involve the creation of an integrated, confidential electronic users register that would allow adults to purchase an occasional limited supply of MDMA.

Joshua Donelly’s recent publication of ‘The Case for MDMA (Ecstasy) Regulation’ in Volume 22 of the Journal of Law and Medicine provides evidence-based support for the Penington proposal from a legal and public health perspective. The available information suggests that MDMA poses a low level of harm to most individual users and causes negligible harm to society. The majority of users only take MDMA occasionally without infringing on the rights of others. While there are various justifications for criminalising behaviour, none seem to be rationally applied in relation to MDMA use.

Furthermore, the prohibition framework intended to control MDMA manufacture and distribution appears to create more harm than good. MDMA prohibition has also failed to reach its objective to restrict use. This article reveals that the information provided to the public in Australia about ecstasy has been misleading and the stigma associated with MDMA use is certainly not commensurate with its potential danger. Carefully implementing a restricted legal market for MDMA is more likely to reduce, rather than increase overall harm to society.

Joshua’s publication was discussed in July in The Age. Click here.

Joshua Donelly completed a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) at La Trobe University in 2013.

Marc Trabsky