The legislation was unanimously passed by the Senate (S.486) with little public awareness last November, and is presently before the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee (HR.2987). The bill has begun to get some media attention and legislative opposition, but it looks like this is too little, too late. A full floor vote is expected in early June.
The bill was originally introduced one month after US Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey quoted the Cannabis Culture website before Congress, and said he was getting “rolled in the public arena” by pot-supporters.
The bill has many troubling aspects, foremost of which are its harsh censorship provisions. The bill bans any publication, website or even verbal communication which explains how to manufacture any controlled substance.
This provision would ban magazines like Cannabis Culture, pot grow books, and even private conversation on how to grow buds. Other banned information could include the safer use of illegal drugs, information on needle exchange, and a doctor discussing medical marijuana with a patient.
The bill also bans advertising of “illegal drug paraphernalia” in any form, including prohibition of internet links to sites which sell such items. This targets the advertising base of most pro-pot magazines and websites, and gives a second excuse for seizures and harassment.
Although the publishers and staff of magazines printed outside the US would be difficult to prosecute, this law would allow magazines to be seized by customs agents at the border. Printers, distributors, retail stores and Internet Service Providers could also be targeted.
More jail, more narcs
The Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act also adds a ten-year mandatory minimum sentence for causing “risk of harm to the environment” while producing any banned substance. This clause is ostensibly aimed at supposedly toxic methamphetamine labs, yet it could also be applied to outdoor cannabis growers using fertilizers or modifying terrain to suit their illegal garden.
The bill would also create many more DEA agents, to be stationed in “small and mid-sized communities.” The added manpower will be used in “interrogating suspects, conducting surveillance operations, and collecting evidence” against drug users.
Some House Democrats have been pushing for amendments to the bill. Wisonsin Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, the first openly lesbian woman elected to the US Congress, has proposed amendments which would either strike the censorship provisions, or exempt material otherwise protected by the First Amendment. However, there is little political support for such alterations.
Another important clause in the bill is so carefully hidden that it almost went unnoticed. An article by Dave Kopel in the National Review Online reported how the bill will “authorize federal agents to stealthily enter people’s homes, search the homes, and not tell anyone.”
The clause is hidden within the bill under the innocuous heading of “Notice Clarification.”
Currently, federal agents can search a home with a search warrant whether the owner is present or not. However, they must notify the owner of the search and they must provide an inventory of any items they take.
The new clause would allow federal police to surreptitiously enter a person’s home, conduct a search, and not tell the homeowner until months later. Even then, cops would not have to provide a list of “intangible” items taken in the search. So the cops would never have to inform you if they took photographs, photocopied your diary or copied your email after sneaking into your home.
The federal Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2000 also has the hidden Secret Searches language. This bill has passed both houses, and was in a conference committee as of late May.
If the “secret searches” provision became law, it would apply to all searches conducted by the federal government, not just those involving methamphetamines or bankruptcy.
According to the Kopel, “Should the Secret Searches item be deleted from the methamphetamine and bankruptcy bills, it is likely that Clinton will try to sneak the item into a gigantic budget bill, during the Congressional Republicans’ annual fall appropriations surrender.”
The section of the bill which would ban pro-pot publications is as follows:
It shall be unlawful for any person?
(A) 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 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;
(b) PENALTY- Any person who violates subsection (a) shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.
Although the Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act might well have been passed by Congress by the time you read this, there are still things you can do to help stop this kind of censorship and prohibition.
Contact Tammy Baldwin to express your support for her proposed amendments to the bill. Send letters to local and major media explaining why you oppose this bill and why the drug war is wrong. Contact your local and national politicians, and tell them that your vote depends on their stand against such police-state legislation. And support publishers and booksellers brave enough to distribute forbidden books and magazines.
? Tammy Baldwin: 1020 Longworth Building, Washington, DC 20515; tel (202) 225-2906; fax (202) 225-6942; email: [email protected]; website: www.house.gov/baldwin/
? For legislative information and updates about this bill, go to: thomas.loc.gov and do a search for S.486 and HR.2987.
? More information about this bill is available at: www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v00.n071.a01.html
? An article in Wired Online about this bill is at: www.wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,36209,00.html
? An article in the Village Voice on this bill is at: www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v00/n115/a01.html
? For the Senate testimony from when the bill was passed, click on
item 6 at this page: thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/R?r106:FLD001:S1493
? For the House of Representatives Justice Committee subcommittee on
Crime, which is soon to vote on the bill: www.house.gov/judiciary/sub106.htm