Pot info ban update

On November 19, the US Senate unanimously passed a vicious bill which proposes to ban Cannabis Culture, and any other publication or website which discusses the manufacture or use of any controlled substance.
The bill is called the “Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act 1999,” but it’s actually aimed at anyone that speaks out in favour of marijuana legalization, harm reduction, or an end to the drug war. The penalty for violating this info-ban is up to 10 years imprisonment, and a hefty fine.

Legislative lunacy

The section 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 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;

(b) PENALTY- Any person who violates subsection (a) shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.

This section was described by Senators as being aimed solely at “the dissemination of methamphetamine ‘recipes’ on the Internet.” Yet the clause is so broadly worded that it could easily apply to a doctor recommending marijuana to a patient, as well as banning pamphlets explaining the safer use of drugs, brochures promoting needle sterilization and exchange, and even website links to other sites which do any of these things.

Websites like Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble, each of which carries hundreds of drug and marijuana-related titles, could be coerced into not selling those books.

Paraphernalia ad ban

Senator Joseph Biden explained the bill’s other censorship aspects. “The bill also tightens the restrictions on direct and indirect advertising of illegal drug paraphernalia and Schedule I drugs. Under this legislation, it would be illegal for on-line magazines and other websites to post advertisements for such illegal material or provide ‘links’ to websites that do.”

The federal Crime Control Act of 1990 makes it a crime to “sell or offer for sale drug paraphernalia.” This law is why US bongmakers all describe their products as for “tobacco use only.” This new bill expands that law, and other federal anti-drug legislation.

The law bans paraphernalia merchants from using “any communication facility to initiate the posting, publicizing, transmitting, publishing, linking to, broadcasting, or other advertising of any matter.”

Do you think all this censorship is obviously an unconstitutional violation of free speech? Biden doesn’t, explaining: “We crafted this language carefully so that we restrict the sale of drug paraphernalia without restricting the First Amendment.”

Harm to the environment?

The bill also adds a ten-year mandatory minimum sentence for causing “risk of harm to the environment” while producing any banned susbtance. This clause is also supposedly aimed at supposedly toxic methamphetamine labs, yet it could also be applied to outdoor cannabis growers modifying terrain to suit their illegal garden.

Subcommittee hearings

The bill was passed unanimously by the US Senate (S.486), and its identical “companion bill” (HR.2987) is already before the House of Representatives. In November the bill was referred to the House Subcommittee on Crime and also the Subcommittee on Health and Environment.

These committees will begin looking at the bill sometime in January. If it is eventually passed by the House of Representatives then it would almost certainly become law, as there is no indication that President Clinton would try to veto the bill.

Repercussions and dangers

This legislation could be used to selectively target any magazines, books or publishing companies deemed too subversive for the feds. Print publications and books would be very vulnerable. Major magazine distributors would likely cave in to any pressure from the authorities, leaving magazines like Cannabis Culture and High Times with no way of reaching US newsstands.

Even the supposedly censorship-proof internet could be vulnerable. While it’s difficult to stop independent websites based outside of the US, major online retailers like Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble could be coerced into dropping the hundreds of grow books and drug-related titles they now carry.

At Cannabis Culture we feel that the censorship aspects of this legislation are aimed largely at us and our aggressive combination of pro-pot journalism and mail-order seed ads. The Senate bill was introduced one month after US Drug Czar General McCaffrey specifically quoted the Cannabis Culture website in a speech before Congress, and complained that he was “getting rolled in the public arena.”

Other pot censorship

In Canada, all “instruments and literature for illicit drug use” was banned in 1988, their import or sale punishable with a $100,000 fine and six months in jail. Hundreds of shops across Canada were shut down by police threats and raids and pot magazines and growbooks were unavailable. The law remains on the books, although now only sporadically enforced.

Within the next few months the Illinois state legislature will debate Bill 792, which bans sharing “information about cannabis by the Internet,” if it can be used for an illegal activity.

For more information

– For more details on this bill and its other nasty surprises, read Cannabis Culture #22, or go to: www.cannabisculture.com/library/hparchive/CongressPlansPot-InfoBan.html

– To read about Drug Czar General Barry McCaffrey quoting the Cannabis Culture website in his speech to Congress, go to: www.cannabisculture.com/library/hparchive/USCongresshearslegalizertestimony.html

– For detailed legislative information about this bill, go to: thomas.loc.gov and do a search for S.486 and HR.2987.

– For the Senate summary and status info: thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d106:SN00486:

– 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:S14932

– The complete text of the House bill can be found at: thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c106:H.R.2987:

– For the most recent House of Representatives summary and status info: thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d106:HR02987:

– To read the current US anti-paraphernalia law which this bill expands: www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/21/863.html

– For the House of Representatives subcommittee on Crime: www.house.gov/judiciary/sub106.htm

– For the House of Representatives subcommittee on Health and the Environment: www.house.gov/commerce/health.html


Sponsors and subcommittee members

The House version of the bill is sponsored by Rep Chris Cannon, and co-sponsored by Representatives Howard Berman, Ken Calvert, Charles Canady, Michael Forbes, Elton Gallegly, Jim Gibbons, Asa Hutchinson, Zoe Lofgren, Bill McCollum, Jerry Moran, George Nethercutt, Charles Pickering, James Rogan, Pete Sessions, Matt Salmon and James Talent.

The members of the House Subcommittee on Crime are:

Bill McCollum, FL, Chairman
Steve Chabot, OH
Bob Barr, GA
George W. Gekas, PA
Howard Coble, NC
Lamar S. Smith, TX
Charles T. Canady, FL
Asa Hutchinson, AR

Robert C. Scott, VA
Martin T. Meehan, MA
Steven R. Rothman, NJ
Anthony D. Weiner, NY
Sheila Jackson-Lee, TX

The members of the House Subcommittee on Health and the Environment are:

Michael Bilirakis, FL, Chairman
Fred Upton, MI
Cliff Stearns, FL
James C. Greenwood, PA
Nathan Deal, GA
Richard Burr, NC
Brian P. Bilbray, CA
Ed Whitfield, KY
Greg Ganske, IA
Charlie Norwood, GA
Tom A. Coburn, OK, Vice Chairman
Rick Lazio, NY
Barbara Cubin, WY
John B. Shadegg, AZ
Charles W. ‘Chip’ Pickering, MS
Ed Bryant, TN

Sherrod Brown, OH
Henry A. Waxman, CA
Frank Pallone, Jr., NJ
Peter Deutsch, FL
Bart Stupak, MI
Gene Green, TX
Ted Strickland, OH
Diana DeGette, CO
Thomas M. Barrett, WI
Lois Capps, CA
Ralph M. Hall, TX
Edolphus Towns, NY
Anna G. Eshoo, CA