Positive movement on the Meth bill

Cannabis Culture has received notice that the Methamphetamine Anti-proliferation Act has been amended by the US House of Representatives.
According to a press release from the Drug Policy Foundation (DPF), the Methamphetamine Anti-proliferation Act (HR 2987) passed the House Judiciary Committee on July 25, and was sent to the House floor to be scheduled for a vote.

However, the bill has been significantly amended. The DPF claims “the Committee removed all of the anti-free speech provisions. Gone are the provisions making it a federal crime to teach or distribute information on the manufacture of a controlled substance. Gone are the provisions allowing federal agencies to order internet service providers to take down web sites that the feds believe to be illegal. Also gone are the provisions banning the advertising of drug paraphernalia. These are huge victories and come on the heels of last week’s removal of the anti-4th Amendment ‘sneak and peak’ provisions.”

The DPF press release continues: “Additionally, the Committee also passed an amendmentto the bill that would allow federal judges to divert nonviolent drug offenders charged solely with possession of an illegal drug into drug treatment or other alternative forms of sentencing. We also won on several other minor issues. The new bill, now called the Methamphetamine and Club Drug Anti-Proliferation Act of 2000, will likely be voted on by the full House sometime after the August recess.”

Although this sounds like a major victory for the anti-censorship cause, the issue is sadly more complicated.

The DPF press release explains that “this bill still launches an all-out war on amphetamines, methamphetamines, and ecstasy, including directing the US Sentencing Commission to increase penalties for certain offenses. And although it is doubtful any of the deleted provisions will be put back on the House floor, we should be concerned about what will happen after the House passes this bill. Many of these provisions are in the Senate version of the bill that passed, and when House and Senate members form a conference to iron out the difference we need to make sure that the final bill reflects the changes made in the House.”

Also, even more worrying, is that the entire text of the original, unamended, Methamphetamine Anti-proliferation Act was added to the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2000, which has already passed both the Senate and the House, and is now in a Conference Committee. The Bankruptcy Bill includes all of the censorship provisions of the Meth-bill, as well as the “secret searches” provisions.

We are following this story closely, and will be posting more news shortly.

For updates on the drug-info ban, go to: www.cannabisculture.com/infoban.

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Our contest offering prizes for activist letter writing on this issue continues. Please send emails and letters to the Congressmen listed below, thanking them for supporting amendments to this bill, and reminding them that the unamended Methamphetamine Anti-proliferation Act lives on within the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2000.

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What follows is the complete text of the Drug Policy Foundation Press Release:

Meth Update – Some Good News Drug Policy Foundation Press Release By Bill Piper July 26, 2000

Although H.R. 2987 (the Meth bill) passed the House Judiciary Committee yesterday and was sent to the House floor to be scheduled for a vote, there is some good news to report. For starters, the Committee removed all of the anti-free speech provisions. Gone are the provisions making it a federal crime to teach or distribute information on the manufacture of a controlled substance. Gone are the provisions allowing federal agencies to order internet service providers to take down web sites that the feds believe to be illegal. Also gone are the provisions banning the advertising of drug paraphernalia. These are huge victories and come on the heels of last week’s removal of the anti-4th Amendment ‘sneak and peak’ provisions.

Additionally, the Committee also passed an amendment to the bill that would allow federal judges to divert nonviolent drug offenders charged solely with possession of an illegal drug into drug treatment or other alternative forms of sentencing. We also won on several other minor issues. The new bill, now called the Methamphetamine and Club Drug Anti-Proliferation Act of 2000, will likely be voted on by the full House sometime after the August recess.

These changes are a tremendous victory and I thank those of you who wrote their Congressmen, spoke out on this issue, wrote letters-to-the-editors, etc. Your work paid off.

Out of all the major changes to this bill only the removal of the ‘teaching and distributing information’ provisions was done by a recorded vote. I have included the roll call at the bottom of this e-mail and if your Representative voted for the change I encourage you to write and thank him or her for putting the First Amendment before the drug war. It’s important that they hear their constituents praise on this issue.

With all that said, let me just say that even with these changes this bill still launches an all-out war on amphetamines, methamphetamines, and ecstasy, including directing the U.S. Sentencing Commission to increase penalties for certain offenses. And although it is doubtful any of the deleted provisions will be put back on the House floor, we should be concerned about what will happen after the House passes this bill. Many of these provisions are in the Senate version of the bill that passed, and when House and Senate members form a conference to iron out the difference we need to make sure that the final bill reflects the changes made in the House.

For more details on what happened, read below:

At the beginning of the Committee meeting, Hutchinson (who was introducing McCollum’s substitute amendment for him), told the Committee that he, Cannon (the original sponsor of 2987) and others had taken out the provisions banning direct advertising of paraphernalia and allowing the feds to take down web pages. They cited opposition by civil liberties groups as their chief reason for removing them.

Rep. Conyers (D-MI), Scott (D-VA), and Waters (D-CA) introduced an amendment to the bill that would have eliminated ALL federal mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses. There was much needed debate on this issue, but the amendment was ultimately defeated 8 to 18. Still it was nice to hear Conyers and others criticize mandatory minimums as unjust and ineffective.

Conyers then offered an amendment that would allow federal courts to sentence individuals convicted of a non-violent drug-related offenses to rehabilitation programs instead of prison. Hutchinson (R-AR) said that while he supported the idea of drug treatment for certain drug offenders and believed Conyer’s idea should be studied, he found the amendment to be too broad in that it would allow judges to sentence any non-violent drug offender to treatment, even those that were convicted of smuggling in tons of illegal drugs. Although Conyers and others argued that the bill only allowed federal judges to consider drug treatment and would not require them to give drug treatment, many on the Committee found his amendment to be too broad.

Committee Chair Henry Hyde (R-IL) said he supported the overall idea of the Conyers bill and felt it to good to lose by bringing it up to a vote as written (where it would be defeated.) Hutchinson said that if Conyers withdrew the amendment he would work with him on adding a provision that would call for a study of the idea of federal drug courts. Conyers said that he wanted a study on the issue, but felt the issue was too important not to take on now. Finally, Hyde suggested that the amendment be changed so as to only apply to defendants charged with simple possession of an illegal drug (as defined by title 21 of the U.S. code.) Conyers agreed to the change and the amendment passed by a voice vote.

Conyers and Scott then introduced an amendment that orders the Attorney General to issue within one year a report on “the racial impact of mandatory minimum sentences for controlled substances, their effectiveness in reducing drug-related crime by nonviolent offenders in contrast with other approaches such as drug treatment programs, and the appropriateness of the use of such sentences on nonviolent offenders.” Hutchinson accepted the language and the amendment was passed by a voice vote.

Scott and Rep. Jackson Lee (D-TX) then introduced an amendment that would have removed the provisions of the meth bill that ordered the Sentencing Commission to increase penalties for certain amphetamine and ecstasy crimes and replace it with provisions asking the Sentencing Commission to review the issue and change penalties as they felt needed. That amendment failed by a voice vote.

Conyers then introduced an amendment stipulating that nothing in the meth bill could be construed as creating any new mandatory minimums. Since there were no mandatory minimums in the meth bill anyway, Hutchinson agreed and the amendment was added.

Bob Barr (R-GA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) then introduced an amendment that would delete the entire section dealing with the ban on ‘teaching and distributing information.” Baldwin criticized the bill for being unconstitutional and unnecessary. Barr said that the provision was blatantly unconstitutional and established a new federal speech crime, in fact creating an entirely new Chapter of the U.S. Code for the sole purpose of suppressing certain speech. He warned that in the future when politicians on either side of the aisle found something offensive they could expand on this new chapter and add bans on other types of speech such as speech related to other drugs, pornography or guns. Hutchinson and other Republicans spoke against the amendment. The amendment passed 15 to 12. (With 5 Republicans and 10 Democrats voting for it, and 9 Republicans and 3 Democrats voting against it.)

The meth bill was then passed as amended by a voice vote and sent to the House floor for scheduling of a full vote.

Voting for the Barr/Baldwin Amendment:

Maxine Waters (D-CA)
Bob Barr (R-GA)
Steve Chabot (R-OH)
Joe Scarborough (R-FL)
William Delahunt (D-MA)
Barney Frank (D-MA)
Martin Meehan (D-MA)
John Conyers (D-MI)
Melvin Watt (D-NC)
Jerold Nadler (D-NY)
Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX)
Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)
“Bobby” Scott (D-VA)
Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)

Voting against the Barr/Baldwin Amendment:

Asa Hutchinson (R-AR)
Elton Gallegly (R-CA)
Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
Jamese Rogan (R-CA)
Charles Canady (R-FL)
Henry Hyde (R-IL)
Dave Vitter (R-LA)
Steve Rothman (D-NJ)
Anthony Weiner (D-NY)
George Gekas (R-PA)
Lamar Smith (R-TX)
Chris Cannon (R-UT)

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