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Sentencing panel boosts ecstasy-sales penalties

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The U.S. Sentencing Commission sharply increased the guideline penalties for selling the hallucinogenic amphetamine known as ecstasy, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.

Beginning May 1, the punishment for importing or selling the party drug will be more severe than for selling powder cocaine, the report said.

The new sentencing guidelines to be followed by federal judges will roughly triple the likely prison term for sale of 200 grams of ecstasy — about 800 pills — from 15 months to five years, the newspaper said. The penalty for sale of 8,000 pills will rise from 41 months to 10 years, the Post said.

According to the report, advocates of higher penalties, including the Justice Department, contend the punishment is needed to curb the dramatic increase in the drug's use in recent years, particularly among teenagers and young adults.