With Spring Fling less than a day away, the Yale Students for Sensible Drug Policy are trying to obtain an exemption that would allow the group to distribute drug-testing kits to Yale students who wish to check if their Molly capsules are laced.
Molly, a synthetic recreational drug that some may elect to indulge in during Saturday’s festivities, contains a psychoactive element known as MDMA, known in its pill form as Ecstasy. In 2014, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration issued a warning noting that, contrary to popular belief, Molly is not a “pure” form of MDMA and is often mixed with other, more harmful drugs. But per Connecticut state laws, drug-testing kits that would determine the substance’s purity are illegal. Among the definitions of “drug paraphernalia,” found in Chapter 420b of the state’s General Statutes, is “testing equipment used, intended for use or designed for use in identifying or analyzing the strength, effectiveness or purity of controlled substances.” Still, students say the kits are necessary to make sure that this weekend is fun and safe for all.
“First, it’s important to acknowledge that whatever the laws and policies at Yale are, students are going to use substances,” SSDP co-chair Clément Dupuy ’18 said. “By refusing to provide students with regulated MDMA, testing kits that can verify the purity of MDMA or even an amnesty policy that encourages students to call for help in the event of an MDMA-related emergency, Yale’s only remaining strategy is to simply hope for the best — an option that has proven ineffective since the discovery of the first psychoactive substances.”
Dupuy pointed out that while abstaining from drugs is the only way to avoid a fatal drug reaction, drug testing is vital because students who purchase drugs generally do so with the intention of consuming them. A drug-testing kit may be the last thing standing between someone with drugs and an overdose, he added.
“We’re currently talking to administrators, legal experts and the [Yale Police Department] to obtain, in writing, a commitment that this law won’t be enforced so that we can protect students as best as we can,” Dupuy said. “Until then, we will still be distributing harm-reduction materials that could save lives.”
Should the SSDP receive a written exemption, Dupuy said, they will order drug-testing kits from DanceSafe, which, according to its website, is a 501(c)(3) public health organization promoting health and safety within the night life and electronic music communities. The kits determine whether or not the drug in question contains pure MDMA or has additives.
Until then, Dupuy added, the SSDP will be displaying a chart that shows the types of MDMA pills sold in and around New Haven, listing what they’re purported to be and what they actually contain.
Richard Chernack, who does public relations for the University of Connecticut SSDP chapter, pointed out that oftentimes, people will create new and untested drugs to mimic the effects of another.
“If someone knew acid would do X, Y, Z but had never heard of the new chemical, it’s much more likely that those involved with distribution will falsely advertise in the name of sales,” Chernack said. “Another problem with this black market for-profit model is [that] those making the money will try to cut corners to increase income. That’s when you end up with substances being laced or cut with other things, like heroin and fentanyl, or ecstasy and methamphetamine.”
This chart is an example of an evidence-based harm reduction, which Chernack explained is a type of policy that advocates for scientifically proven methods of mitigating the dangerous side effects associated with drug use or other high-risk behaviors.
“To decrease the odds of a dangerous reaction, it is not enough to verify the drugs — people choosing to use drugs should know how to do so in as safe a way as possible,” Lincoln Swaine-Moore ’17, SSDP policy coordinator, said. “That’s why SSDP also promotes harm reduction initiatives other than testing kits that help people make informed choices by increasing public knowledge about the risks involved in using drugs and how to minimize them.”
Dupuy expressed hope that interest in the drug kits will increase as word gets out. He said SSDP plans to table on Cross Campus between 2 and 4 p.m. on Friday and on either Cross Campus or Old Campus between 10 a.m. and noon on Saturday.
“You’re never really sure what you’re taking,” said a student who wished to test the drugs purchased for Spring Fling.
The student, who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the topic, once consumed a substance that was supposedly Molly, but was actually meth.
The meth made the student uncharacteristically aggressive and was not an “enjoyable experience,” the student said. After seeing SSDP’s event on Facebook advertising the test kits, the student said it was “awesome” that testing drugs was an option.
Delivering drug paraphernalia or possessing it with intent to deliver is considered a class A misdemeanor under Connecticut law. According to Dupuy, the University of Connecticut chapter of SSDP tipped Yale’s SSDP off to the potential ramifications of possessing drug kits, including a $500 fine and a three-month jail sentence.