The scheduling of MDMA has indeed been controversial! It was a very
interesting question to research.
There are three federal criteria for classifying a drug as schedule 1:
* Has a high potential for abuse.
* Has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the US
* A lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical
For a complete description of the drug schedules see:
Here is a quick summary, with several links that follow giving many
more details that follow about the arguments placed forth and policics
of MDMA's classification.
MDMA was initially temporarily placed into Schedule I by the DEA under
emergency scheduling provisions on July 1st, 1985 just as hearings
were about to commence to determine the appropriate scheduling. In
May of 1996 the hearings concluded and the judge found no basis for
the schedule 1 classification and recommended schedule 3. John Lawn,
Regan appointee to the position of Administrator of the DEA refused to
accept the judges recommendation. Administrator Lawn decreed that
effective November 13, 1986, MDMA would be permanently placed in
Schedule I, not Schedule III. Harvard Professor Lester Grinspoon sued
the DEA and won. The court vacated MDMAs Schedule I status, and
remanded the case to the DEA for reconsideration. The DEA's Lawn
quickly stated they had reconsidered the evidence but still concluded
that MDMA belonged in Schedule I. His primary argument was that there
were no *published* studies showing the medical usefulness of MDMA.
Remarkably, the decision has stood since that time.
Currently its status is:
LEGAL STATUS Controlled
SCHEDULE Schedule 1
The following dates are relevant to MDMA scheduling issues:
7/27/1984 DEA announced that it was moving to add MDMA to the
list of Schedule I substances
7/1/1985 MDMA temporarily placed in schedule 1.
summer 85 MDMA scheduling hearings begin
12/22/1987 MDMA removed from schedule I because of improper
procedure in DEA's original emergency
3/23/1988 MDMA permanently placed in Schedule I w/o challenge.
For a detailed look at the scheduling history of MDMA, check out,
"The Politics of Medicine: the Scheduling of MDMA"
This article is an excellent summary of the arguments used for MDMA's
scheduling, as well as the politics involved. If I could quote this
whole article in my answer I would, as I think it gives all the
details you are looking for. Most interesting is:
"On May 22, 1986. In a comprehensive opinion, Judge Young found that
MDMA did not meet a single one of the three criteria necessary for
placement in Schedule I. Judge Young reported that MDMA had a safe and
accepted medical use in the US under medical supervision. Furthermore,
he found that the evidence failed to establish that MDMA had a high
potential for abuse. Based on his thorough examination of the
evidence, Judge Young recommended that MDMA be placed in Schedule III,
which would allow doctors to use it in therapy and prescribe it, while
still keeping it unavailable to the public at large."
The article goes on to give the reasons that the DEA's John Lawn gave
for keeping MDMA schedule 1, the lawsuit that followed and the
resoning again given by Lawn to regain schedule 1 status.
For the complete report of these MDMA hearings see, "UNITED STATES
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE Drug Enforcement Administration
In The Matter Of MDMA SCHEDULING"
Search terms used:
why mdma schedule 1 drug
drug schedule Has no currently accepted medical use in treatment
I hope this answer meets your expectations!