Look at the blatant marketing to young teens!

Look at the blatant marketing to young teens!

On Wednesday evening, Columbia’s SSDP (Students for a Sensible Drug Policy) hosted a panel that gave the real story behind everyone’s mysterious friend: Molly. Somewhat sensible student Alexandra Avvocato was there, accompanied by Angel Jiang, who was there to explain the pop culture references.

As we walked into the Roone Cinema, hip-hop beats played from the speakers, lending a nicely awkward ambience. The promo image for the event loomed above us on the projector screen: “The Truth About Molly” accompanied by a little unicorn-decorated tablet, presumably Molly herself. Among the panelists were Allison Bajger, a doctoral candidate at Columbia; Ingmar Gorman, a doctoral candidate at the New School; Brittany Lewis of Global Grind; and Dr. Lewis-McCoy from CUNY’s City College. The wide range of expertise among the panelists exemplified the danger that my AP Euro teacher constantly warned us of: that which is broad must be shallow. While many interesting tidbits and pieces of trivia about MDMA were thrown around, there was little chance for the panelists to reach a deeper conclusion about the relationship of the drug with any community.

The panel began with — what else? — a video clip from Fox News, and frantic anchors with too much makeup warning parents that Molly was “no friend” to their innocent teens. The clip screamed about the dance club drug creating destructive addictions, leaving anonymously interviewed kids depressed and (it sounded like) nearly catatonic. Did you know that buying MDMA is “as easy as going into the store and buying Coca-Cola”?! Thankfully, the video ended soon after.

Allison Bajger opened the discussion with a purely scientific understanding of Molly, illustrating the chemical similarity of MDMA with amphetamine and methamphetamine. By citing blind experiments in which participants couldn’t distinguish between methamphetamines and MDMA, she argued for the similarity in perceived effect within the amphetamine family. So are you better off just taking some Adderall?

Ingmar Gorman had a more applicable view of MDMA, presenting a history of the positive therapeutic effects of the drug. His views certainly have some strong support: during the video that preceded Bajger’s speech, the creator of MDMA in the 1960s described it as “a window into the world as it is.” And in several cases over the past few decades, MDMA dosages have helped patients with severe trauma recover from their experience when traditional therapy failed. In fact, from the mid-1970’s to the early 1980’s, around 500,000 doses of MDMA were administered for therapeutic reasons. Ahhh, nostalgia.

The easy and inevitable humor came with Brittany Lewis, who began her presentation with an MTV clip of Snoop Lion, who “just wants [you] to be careful,” and a host of other rappers with amusing sayings about Molly (“errybody on Molly now”). Then, of course, the litany of music video excerpts that featured the little lady; there was naturally generous use of Trinidad James. Despite the musical entertainment, though, her portion of the lecture could be summed up as: “Lots of black rap and hip-hop artists talk about Molly in their music.” To her credit, she complicated her point during the question and answer period by adding that many of those artists had confirmed to her that they didn’t, in fact, take MDMA regularly. Still, it’s not the greatest revelation that most artists sing about things that they don’t actually do.

Ending the series of presentations, Dr. Lewis-McCoy won frequent and relieved bursts of laughter from the audience as the one “hip with the kids” panelist who clearly knew his 80’s and 90’s rap and hip-hop. He also gave specific examples of the rampant and horrifying misconceptions about MDMA (one particularly entertaining “PSA” claimed that it was a combination of heroin, crack, and Adderall). Of all the lecturers, he gave the least equivocal opinions, clearly stating that MDMA needed to be legalized independently of the stigma surrounding the “black, brown, and poor communities,” which it’s been associated with for most of its legal history.

It was clear from each one of the panelists that MDMA is one of the most mysterious and misunderstood drugs commonly used today; but that’s something we clearly already know, or else why would this lecture have taken place? The closest the lecture got to a real step forward was Lewis-McCoy’s comment near the end of the discussion, that he would encourage rappers to team up with education organizations to spread public awareness about MDMA. I was waiting to hear about a potential new avenue towards changing the understanding of MDMA, and towards revolutionizing the attitude towards it both within the hip-hop community and within the legislative community. The wide range of the panel, though, made a deeper thread of conversation impossible to follow.

“The demon drug” according to Fox News via Wikimedia