Congress plans pot-info ban
One month after US Drug Czar General McCaffrey told a Congressional committee that he was getting "rolled in the public arena" by Cannabis Culture and other pot-supporters, a bill has been introduced into the US Congress which would ban all pro-pot books and websites. Anything which explains how to grow or use cannabis, or any other prohibited plant or substance, would be completely censored.
The bill is called the Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act, but its real target is magazines, books and websites which dissent from the war on drugs mentality.
The bill is backed by a coalition of a dozen senators, led by California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, a longtime supporter of internet regulation, and Utah Republican Orrin Hatch, the arch-conservative Mormon Minister who chairs the Senate Judiciary committee.
Although this bill has a ways to go before becoming law, and although it's unconstitutional, if it is passed the repercussions to pot culture will be immediate and severe. How many magazine distributors and printers would be willing to challenge the US government on behalf of their pro-cannabis clients? Likely very few, which could leave magazines like this one fighting for survival without any means of producing or distributing their product.
The part of the bill most worrisome to pro-pot magazines and websites is as follows:
"It shall be unlawful for any person to teach or demonstrate the manufacture of a controlled substance, or to distribute by any means information pertaining to, in whole or in part, the manufacture or use of a controlled substance, with the intent that the teaching, demonstration, or information be used for, or in furtherance of, an activity that constitutes a Federal crime."
This would ban all books and magazines with grow tips, doctors' advice to medical-pot patients, harm-reduction pamphlets explaining safe use of banned drugs, brochures explaining needle sterilization and needle exchange, and even website links to other sites which do any of these things. Since hemp cultivation remains a federal felony, books on how to grow and process industrial hemp would also be banned.
The penalty for violating this info-ban is up to 10 years imprisonment, and a hefty fine.
The federal Crime Control Act of 1990 makes it a crime to "sell or offer for sale drug paraphernalia," a law that the Supreme Court upheld as constitutional in 1994. This new bill expands and modifies this law, as well as other federal anti-drug legislation.
On July 22, the bill was read twice and referred to the Committee on Judiciary. Further hearings were held on July 28, with no indication of when consideration on the bill will continue.
More cops, more jails
The Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act has a number of other nasty surprises in it as well, including the creation of many more DEA agents, with new offices to be stationed in "small and mid-sized communities." The added manpower will be used to assist local law enforcement in "interrogating suspects, conducting surveillance operations, and collecting evidence" against drug users.
Another worrisome provision of this bill would modify the Controlled Substances Act to make "risk of harm to the environment" while manufacturing a banned substance as being equivalent to "risk of harm to human life", and upping the penalty for this to a mandatory minimum of 10 years! This is in addition to any other penalties for the actual cultivation/production. Although Hatch claimed this is to snare the treacherous methamphetamine maker who pollutes the environment with his lab, this vaguely defined section would certainly include any pot farmers caught growing in forest or park lands.
Further, in the specific cases of amphetamine or methamphetamine, the onus would be on the manufacturer to prove that he was not causing risk of harm to human life or the environment, or else face the mandatory 10 years imprisonment.
The Dianne Feinstein/Orrin Hatch team-up is not new. Although from different parties, they share a passion for scare-tactics and government control. In 1996 they joined forces to make it a felony to possess computer-generated images of naked children. Feinstein has also tried to pass bills to ban secure internet encryption products and bomb-making information.
Hatch, meanwhile, has had great success passing bills labeled as being anti-methamphetamine. He co-sponsored the Comprehensive Methamphetamine Act of 1999, which expanded drug courts and dramatically increased the mandatory minimums for methamphetamine offences. The 1999 Rural Methamphetamine Use Response Act also expanded police powers and budgets to fight the methamphetamine "epidemic." Although both are harmful pieces of pro-drug-war legislation, neither is as horrifying as the current bill.
Here's some of Senator Orrin Hatch's speech made while introducing this repressive legislation:
"I was shocked to discover that those who embrace the drug counter-culture these days are using the internet to promote, advertise, and sell illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia.
"In 1992, Congress passed a law that made it illegal for anyone to sell or offer for sale drug paraphernalia. This law resulted in the closings of numerous 'head shops,' yet, now the out-of-business store owners are selling their illegal drug paraphernalia on the internet?
"This bill will not only prevent web sites from advertising drug paraphernalia for sale, but it will also prohibit web sites that do not sell drug paraphernalia from allowing other sites that do from advertising on its web site?
"There are even web sites that advertise for sale marijuana and poppy seeds, along with growing and nurturing instructions. This type of behavior is not only reprehensible, but it is also illegal, and this clarifying provision can help stop this behavior from continuing over the internet."
This bill should be of great concern to pot-people across America. Although some might think that such an oppressive censorship law could never pass, take note that it already exists in many other supposedly democratic nations. All "literature for illicit drug use" was banned in Canada in 1988, and grow books and High Times magazines were unavailable for almost a decade. Their import or sale is still punishable under Canada's Criminal Code with a $100,000 fine and six months in jail, although the law is now only rarely enforced, simply because we have brazenly forced our government to accept our existence.
England and France also have severe anti-cannabis information laws, and a few years back British author Mick Marlow spent six months in jail and had all copies of his grow-book Tricameral Sinsemilla burned. France has also fined and jailed pro-pot website owners and magazine publishers.
A similar censorship law has come up on the state level. In early 2000 the Illinois state legislature will debate Bill 792, which would ban providing "information about cannabis by the Internet" if the information could be used for an illegal activity. The bill unanimously passed the state House last year, but got stuck in the Senate due to negative publicity. It is due to come up again during the coming months.
Given that Senator Hatch has already passed two anti-methamphetamine bills this year, there is no reason to believe that he cannot pass this one as well. The passage of bills through the US Congress can seem slow, but observers predict that unless opposed, the bill could become law before the presidential election in November 2000.
? If you want to stop this bill, then please send a letter or email to your local and national media, alerting them to this bill and its negative repercussions. Also contact your local representative and urge them to oppose this bill.
? Senator Orrin Hatch: 131 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510; tel (202) 224-5251; fax (202) 224-6331; email email@example.com; web hatch.senate.gov
? Senator Dianne Feinstein: 331 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510, tel (202) 224-3841; fax (202) 228-3954; email firstname.lastname@example.org; web feinstein.senate.gov
? These Senators are all also co-sponsors of the bill: Jesse Helms, Michael De Wine, Joseph Biden, Strom Thurmond, Christopher Bond, Gordon Smith, Harry Reid, Richard Bryan, Herb Kohl.
? For email, website and other contact information for all Senators, go to: web www.visi.com/juan
? To find out the phone and fax number of any US Representative, call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 244-3121.
? For more information on the Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act: web thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c106:S.1428:
? For the bill summary and status: web thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d106:s.01428:
? To read the federal law which bans drug paraphernalia: web www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/21/863.html