Having just recently posted on the bust of an Ecstasy / MDMA lab based in a house, you might assume that I would be thinking a little more deeply about the whole illicit manufacturing process for MDMA. (In reading the article that launched that post, I'll remind you, I learned that pill press operations are a whole lot smaller scale that I might have predicted.) You would be wrong, because I find myself fascinated to read a recent article detailing the effect of the illicit MDMA trade on the trees and fauna of wilderness regions of Cambodia.
First and foremost, the synthesis of MDMA is an illegal act and will, if documented in court, put you in prison for many years. And even the innocent search for some of these botanical sources can be just as nasty. There is a listing of chemicals that are used in the manufacture of controlled substances, (called List 1 by the DEA), that make the possession of any of these chemicals a reason to ask if you have the intent to manufacture MDMA. On that list there are explicitly named piperonal, 3,4-methylenedioxyphenyl-2-propanone (this is a synonym for piperonylacetone), isosafrole, and safrole. These are the exact compounds named above that are implicated in the synthesis of MDMA.
So, where does safrole come from? Two of the major sources are botanically distinct sassafras oils.
For my part, I don't require any more support other than the word of Shulgin but if you care to Google the appropriate terms you will find a host of websites out there describing MDMA synthesis "for informational purposes" which support the idea that sassafras oil derived safrole is a key precursor for MDMA manufacture.
Turning back to the recent story on Cambodia we learn a number of interesting things:
The sassafras oil comes from the Cardamom Mountain area, one of the last forest wildernesses in mainland South East Asia.
Cambodian sassafras oil is highly sought as it is of the highest quality - more than 90 per cent pure, according to the head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Cambodia, Lars Pedersen. It is a major precursor drug used in the production of ecstasy.
"Massive amounts of sassafras oil are smuggled every year into Vietnam and Thailand from Cambodia," he said.
Sassafras Oil is made from the roots of the rare Mreah Prew Phnom tree - also known as Cinnamomum parathenoxylon.[ED- a comment suggests this should be C. parthenoxylon]
Wait, what's that now? Shulgin didn't make any mention of this particular plant as a source of sassafras oil. Google is pretty much just turning up this article when I search for the plants Latin name too. hmm, any botanists around?
Apart from depleting the Mreah Prew Phnom, large numbers of surrounding trees are felled to maintain the fires, undermining the area's biodiversity. At the current rate, Mr Bradfield said, the Mreah Prew Phnom and other species would become extinct in the near future.
Animal life is also threatened. Deep in the jungle, the factories, which have two or three distilling pots each, are heavily guarded and require dozens workers to maintain the stills. These workers live on the surrounding wildlife in the area, with many involved in the commercial poaching of such rare animals as tigers, pangolins, peacocks, pythons, wild cats and wild fowls.
Streams and rivers are being polluted too by the effluent from the oil production. "There are frequently dead fish and frogs floating in the streams near these distilleries," Mr Bradfield said.
return to huntI wonder how many of our MDMA promoting friends are of an environmentalist lefty-progressive political bent? Maybe they can get some sort of Econaut/Fair-Trade/Green certification of their Ecstasy supply in the future? "The MDMA used in this Ecstasy tablet was created using sustainable methods to generate the precursor sassafras oil..."
Anyway, think about it, you Ecstasy fans. It isn't just the heroin and cocaine users who are supporting nasty little environmental, political and social problems in the far off* lands which grow the plants used in the synthesis of their recreational drug product. Turns out MDMA is in the same boat.
*for the majority of my readers anyway