Drug-info ban stalled

The US Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act, and its proposed censorship of drug information, has been receiving severe criticism in the media. The House version of the bill has been amended to remove the censorship provisions. Yet the bill remains very dangerous, and could also be passed in another form.
Attention and amendments

Although the Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act received almost no media attention when it was unanimously passed by the Senate in November 1999, it began to get negative publicity in May and June. Articles in the Washington Post, the National Review, the San Jose Mercury News and other major papers decried the bill, describing it as “a sneak attack on our digital liberties” and “a primer on drug-war excess.”

This media attention produced results. Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the first openly lesbian woman elected to the US Congress, proposed amendments to strike the bill’s censorship on explaining the “manufacture” of any illegal substance. She teamed up with Representative Bob Barr (R-GA), who is very anti-pot, to delete the entire section on the info-ban. Both criticized the proposed censorship as unconstitutional, and their amendment was passed by the House Judiciary Committee with a close vote of 15-12.

According to Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Foundation (DPF), who has been monitoring the bill’s progress, it was amended in a number of other ways. Provisions allowing the feds to take down web sites they deemed illegal were removed, as were bans on paraphernalia ads and web-links. The “secret searches” language was also deleted. The ten-year mandatory minimum for causing “risk of harm to the environment” while producing any illegal substance was also cut. The Committee even passed an amendment allowing federal judges to divert people charged with simple possession into drug treatment.

Mixed victory

Despite these changes, the bill remains very dangerous. The Committee expanded the scope of the bill, renaming it The Methamphetamine and Club-Drug Anti-Proliferation Act. Piper explained how the bill “still launches an all-out war on amphetamines, methamphetamines, and ecstasy,” including making the penalties for MDMA (Ecstasy) and GHB equivalent to methamphetamine. It also allocates millions of dollars in funding for more narcs.

Also, the unamended version of the bill is far from dead. Once the changed version is passed by the House of Representatives, it will then go before a joint Senate/House committee, where they will debate the differences between this bill and the original version passed by the Senate. Piper explains that “when House and Senate members form a conference to iron out the differences, we need to make sure that the final bill reflects the changes made in the House.”

Moral bankruptcy

The Senate’s desire to force this bill into law, led by Senators

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