U.S. Drug Policy Would Be Imposed Globally By New House Bill

The House Judiciary Committee passed a bill yesterday that would make it a federal crime for U.S. residents to discuss or plan activities on foreign soil that, if carried out in the U.S., would violate the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) — even if the planned activities are legal in the countries where they’re carried out.

The new law, sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) allows prosecutors to bring conspiracy charges against anyone who discusses, plans or advises someone else to engage in any activity that violates the CSA, the massive federal law that prohibits drugs like marijuana and strictly regulates prescription medication.

“Under this bill, if a young couple plans a wedding in Amsterdam, and as part of the wedding, they plan to buy the bridal party some marijuana, they would be subject to prosecution,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates for reforming the country’s drug laws. “The strange thing is that the purchase of and smoking the marijuana while you’re there wouldn’t be illegal. But this law would make planning the wedding from the U.S. a federal crime.”

The law could also potentially affect academics and medical professionals. For example, a U.S. doctor who works with overseas doctors or government officials on needle exchange programs could be subject to criminal prosecution. A U.S. resident who advises someone in another country on how to grow marijuana or how to run a medical marijuana dispensary would also be in violation of the new law, even if medical marijuana is legal in the country where the recipient of the advice resides. If interpreted broadly enough, a prosecutor could possibly even charge doctors, academics and policymakers from contributing their expertise to additional experiments like the drug decriminalization project Portugal, which has successfully reduced drug crime, addiction and overdose deaths.

The Controlled Substances Act also regulates the distribution of prescription drugs, so something as simple as emailing a friend vacationing in Tiajuana some suggestions on where to buy prescription medication over the counter could subject a U.S. resident to criminal prosecution. “It could even be something like advising them where to buy cold medicine overseas that they’d have to show I.D. to get here in the U.S.,” Piper says.

Civil libertarian attorney and author Harvey Silverglate says the bill raises several concerns. “Just when you think you can’t get any more cynical, a bill like this comes along. I mean, it just sounds like an abomination. First, there’s no intuitive reason for an American to think that planning an activity that’s perfectly legal in another country would have any effect on America,” Silverglate says. “So we’re getting further away from the common law tradition that laws should be intuitive, and should include a mens rea component. Second, this is just an act of shameless cultural and legal imperialism. It’s just outrageous.”

Conspiracy laws in general are problematic when applied to the drug war. They give prosecutors extraordinary discretion to charge minor players, such as girlfriends or young siblings, with the crimes committed by major drug distributors. They’re also easier convictions to win, and can allow prosecutors to navigate around restrictions like statutes of limitations, so long as the old offense can be loosely linked to a newer one. The Smith bill would expand those powers. Under the Amsterdam wedding scenario, anyone who participated in the planning of the wedding with knowledge of the planned pot purchase would be guilty of conspiracy, even if their particular role was limited to buying flowers or booking the hotel.

The law is a reaction to a 2007 case in which the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals threw out the convictions of two men who planned the transfer of cocaine from a Colombian drug cartel to a Saudi prince for distribution in Europe. Though the men planned the transaction from Miami, the court found that because the cocaine never reached the U.S. and was never intended to reach the U.S., the men hadn’t committed any crime against the United States.

But the Smith bill goes farther than necessary to address that outcome in that case. “They could have limited this law to prohibiting the planning of activities that are illegal in the countries where they take place,” Piper says. “That would have allowed them to convict the guys in the Miami case. There was an amendment proposed to do that and it was voted down on party lines. They intentionally made sure the bill includes activities that legal in other countries. Which means this is an attempt to apply U.S. law all over the globe.”

It wouldn’t be the first time. Over the last several years, a number of executives from online gambling companies have been arrested in U.S. airports and charged with felony violations of U.S. gambling, racketeering and money laundering laws, even though the executives were citizens of and the companies were incorporated in countries where online gambling is legal.

Last May, one U.S. citizen saw how the police can apply in reverse. Joe Gordon, a native of Thailand who has lived in America for 30 years, was arrested while visiting his native country for violating Thailand’s lèse-majesté law, which bans criticism of the Thai royal family. Gordon had posted a link on his blog to a biography of Thailand’s king that has been banned in Thailand.

In recent years, officials have also attempted to impose U.S. white collar crime policies on other countries as well, such as pressuring Switzerland to soften it’s privacy laws to help American officials to catch tax cheats and money launderers.

But Silverglate says the Smith bill breaks new ground. “I’m horrified by the pressure on Switzerland, and that’s probably the libertarian in me, but at least there you have an argument that there’s an American interest at stake. Here, I don’t see any interest other than to a desire to impose our moral and cultural preferences on the rest of the world.”

– Article from The Huffington Post.



  1. Ozlanthos on

    You must not be paying attention because there is only one person running for president who fits the bill of “real men”His name is Ron Paul, and if you’d like to hear a sane man talk about the way we should treat drug use in America, you might want to check out Ron Paul on Youtube!!!!


  2. Tony Aroma on

    Here’s the entire text of that bill:

    Whoever, within the United States, conspires with one or more persons, or aids or abets one or more persons, regardless of where such other persons are located, to engage in conduct at any place outside the United States that would constitute a violation of this title if committed within the United States, shall be subject to the same penalties that would apply to such conduct if it were to occur within the United States.

    It specifically says that this applies only to people who engage in these activities within the US. Where are you getting that this applies to activities outside the US?

  3. Son of Sam Walton on

    Damn Dirty Harry -that’s some golden rationale with the ‘autobahn’ example . . . I think that too should be forced to destory the hypocrisy . . . this will piss off a bunch of U.S. troops who are or will be vets fighting for our so call freedoms and rights . . . if this happens, we might see our Boys in Germany and Eurpoe stationed oversees march on Rome, I mean Washington like Cesar did. If hope and justice cannot be found on a ballot, then it must be found on a bullet or we will continue to slowly go down this slppery slope and we all will be sorry.

    How does the quote go: first they went after the communists, but I was not a communist so I didn’t speak out for them . . . then they took away the Jews and I wasn’t a Jew, so I didn’t speak out for them and then they took me away and no one spoke out for me?

  4. Son of Sam Walton on

    Though doubtful it’s the intended results, this is nothing less than the U.S. requiring international terrorism to remain rampant so we can continue to fight for oil and trading territory . . . the U.S. needs drugs to be illegal for us to continue fighting terrorism since terrorism needs drugs to be illegal (such as in this new law too) to properly fund such attacks as 9/11, Spanish trainbombings, and attacking coalition troops. I find it very improbable that people who buy black market cars, black market guns . . . diamonds, stolen electronics, pirated DVDs etc eat such items the way people ingest cocaine, weed, heroin etc . . . so drug policy is a perverted and awkward national agenda for keeping terrorism alive and well . . . of course we’ll never stop terrorism period point blank, but it’s horrible effects could be reduced via legalizing every drug from A-Z. Thanks America for giving the terrorists, gangs, mafia, violent criminals waiting for a cell and cartels the ‘right of way’ for committing war and crime. But then again, fighting dope terrorism for ten years to very little avail makes one begin to think that this law was custom made to further help terrorism by such and such degree since we have some agenda keeping our troops deployed in the Middle East.

    The Feds are forcing naturally good natured and moral people like the cops to be deviant and wicked . . . a single ‘Oh shit’ totally wipes out a whole bunch of ‘at-a boys’. This causes chaos in the soul of the nation when the hero (cop) is the villain too.

    In Tulsa, a young couple was murdered in a parking lot because the car-jacker who’d been shot and arrested for a 2010 failed carjacking didn’t have a cell to stay in and was on ‘probation’ (though a single Native American mother selling a little bit of pot receives 12yrs). Sad the good guys like the cops are also terrorists and gangbangers . . . not every cop, just the one’s whom obey and enforce the illegal drug enforcement laws are.

  5. Bhonze on

    They need to put Lamar out to pasture! He is an Ideological coot. He is a F^*& Communist.

  6. Anonymous on

    Increase prohibition !Arrest all the people!Burn all the weed in the world.Make all the countries a police state ! Build more prisons !
    Get rid of all the baby boomers and old hippies who smoke marijuana !
    Go for it Obama while you are still president !

  7. Atlanta on

    This is how the Judiciary Committee spends its time? What a rip off the Judiciary Committee is for the people. Why dont you morons within the committee concentrate on real issues that matter and make a real difference in the country instead of wasting money and time on a non-issue. This is nothing more than Lamar Smith grandstanding and attempting to hold the line for Law Enforcement budgets, absolutley notihng more than that.

    The thought of you controlling me in other parts of the world just because I am an American is sickening to me. There is obvioulsly not one politician out of Texas other than Ron Paul that is not a complete moron. I’m telling you, this is something that should make every American so mad they let it be known. This is all about control, Where what little Liberty we have left ends. You can thank every Texan thats every been in the White House for the decay of this country

  8. Bud Grinder on

    And the more I think about it the more convinced I am that ALCOHOL rots people’s brains and makes them think and behave like that. The people in government’s thinking has become impaired and dangerous caused by their consumption of alcohol. Switching to weed would mellow them out and get them to behave more decently towards their fellow human beings.

  9. Bud Grinder on

    They are truly out of their minds down there. As shitty as it can be living under a majority conservative government in Canada, lead by Pastor Harper, I couldn’t ever imagine living under a regime that would enact what’s in this story. We Canadians better watch out and get prepared for the day when they come after us for our natural resources the same way they’ve gone after them in other foreign lands recently.

  10. Dirty Harry on

    What the hell, this is like the movie Minority Report. You only “think” of committing a crime they come and arrest you before you can do it.
    Improper thoughts are now a crime even if there was no action to actually do it?
    The day is coming people that if they ever invent brain scanners that actually work that you can be arrested for being in the wrong mindset.
    Will they be ticketing people who return from Germany for driving fast on the autobahn because it violates the federal interstate speed limit? Will we be arresting foreign visitors in the US for activities legal in their home countries that are illegal here? “Welcome to the USA on your visit from Amsterdam. Please fill this cup. Your positive for XXX and you are under arrest for violating US laws.”…

  11. Anonymous on

    WOW….Did not know I was owned by the U.S.Government.

    Seems you gotta sneak out of there compound to find freedom somewhere else….maybe time to dump my citizenshit and find a FREE COUNTRY one not becoming of COMMUNIST IDEAS!

    I’m 67 been smoking pot since I was 18….while having to hide from the American PIGS! I challenge any American PIG to waste money chasing me in THAILAND , LAOS and Viet Nam the real free countries on this planet…..

    FUCK YOU OBuMA ….no apple/vote for you I hope CANCER GETS YOU!

  12. Guitarod on

    Where does the USA come with all this crap. People go to places like Amsterdam to for an experience where smoking pot is acceptable & legal.
    Hence they are not breaking any laws.
    Uncle Sam & the long arm of the law still forbids & is more than willing to prosecute.
    Any American with the means should get the hell out & renounce their citizenship as they have no rights there. Apparently even this is not possible as the taxman still wants it’s pound of flesh.
    America the land of the free? What a joke.
    You can run but you can’t hide.

  13. Anonymous on

    He only won through district redraws. This is such terrible legislation…Americans want change and we got failobama. Problem now is we have really bad choice A and really bad choice B…and congress full of buddies who care about getting the ones they know as rich as possible. When are the real men going to stand up and fight back drawing blood from the people who are ruining the individual freedom.

  14. Anonymous on

    This is so unconstitutional not to mention unamerican we need to expose this snake Lamar Alexander

  15. Darral Good on

    I don’t see any interest other than to a desire to impose our moral and cultural preferences on the rest of the world.