Beware new federal drug laws

Cannabis Culture’s journalists are psychic.

A couple of years ago, they warned you about the US Government’s Operation TIPS and VIPS.

These programs were the brainchild of former US Attorney General John Ashcroft, who has now retired and is enjoying a career as a gospel singer. Ashcroft wanted private citizens to spy on their neighbors, and to work as volunteer police officers.
This is how Assistant Attorney General Deborah Daniels described these programs in June, 2002:

“The Citizen Corps is a network of volunteer organizations in individual communities that will marshal the skills and knowledge of the American people to help law enforcement respond to terrorism and other crimes. A few weeks ago, the Attorney General announced a new Citizen Corps initiative to encourage citizens to volunteer in their local law enforcement agencies.

“The Volunteers in Police Services (VIPS) program will increase the number of law enforcement volunteers in order to free up law enforcement professionals to better perform their front-line duties. VIPS also will help law enforcement agencies identify ways to expand their use of citizen volunteers, enhance existing VIPS programs, or start new ones.

“We’ve set up a web site at to help citizens who want to volunteer with their local departments and to provide information to law enforcement agencies about this initiative.

“Another Citizen Corps initiative is to expand the number of Neighborhood Watch programs across the country and to incorporate terrorism prevention into this program’s long-time mission of preventing neighborhood crime. Our goal is to double the number of Neighborhood Watch programs across the country over the next year.

“We’re also working to develop Operation TIPS – the Terrorism Information and Prevention System. TIPS will to give to millions of American truckers, letter carriers, train conductors, ship captains, utility employees, and others, whose routines allow them to be the “eyes and ears” of police, a formal way to report suspicious or potential terrorist activity. We hope to announce the launch of Operation TIPS sometime this August.”

Unfortunately for Ms. Daniels, Operation TIPS ran into problems because it violated the constitution and sparked protests, and apparently was never fully implemented.

TIPS went down, but Operation VIPS was activated. You can sign up to be a neighborhood nark or official amateur police officer, via this nifty online form:

VIPS volunteers are often assigned to clerical or administrative tasks, but VIPS officials acknowledge some volunteers carry guns and badges, and that the government reimburses them for the costs of their VIPS service.

But VIPS wasn’t good enough for Wisconsin Republican Congressman James Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Fresh off achieving a major legislative victory by sponsoring legislation that creates a national identification card and a police state to enforce it, Sensenbrenner is now sponsoring legislation called the “Safe Access to Drug Treatment and Child Protection Act” that requires Americans to nark on each other, or go to jail.

The legislation, known in official code language as H.R. 1528, is currently being examined in various committees. If it emerges from the committee process and passes a general vote as written, it will change drastically the US criminal code, creating new drug-related crimes, and mandating a vicious sentencing scheme that will imprison people for minimum sentences of two, five and ten years- or longer.

This legislation is so blatantly fascist that it’s difficult to adequately describe the dangers it creates for the marijuana culture.

It eliminates federal judges’ ability to give sentences below mandatory minimums recommended by federal sentencing guidelines. If the legislation passes, all federal offenses will include mandatory time in prison, and judges will have no discretion, even if they feel that mercy and justice will be served without imposing a prison sentence.

H.R. 1528 establishes new penalties and new crimes involving non-violent drug offenses. If a mom who has been officially certified as a “drug abuser” smokes a joint in her home with her children absent, she faces ten years in jail. If you smoke herb with someone who has ever been in a drug treatment program, you face five years in jail. If you ask a person who is in a drug treatment program to get you some herb, you can go to jail for five years. If you see your wife or husband smoke a joint in your home in front of your children and fail to report your partner to police, you face a minimum of two years in prison, and could be sentenced to ten years in prison. You’ll go to jail for at least two years if you know someone selling marijuana on school campuses and fail to report it to the police within 24 hours. If you’re a 21-year-old who smokes herb with someone under age 18, you are subject to a 10 year mandatory minimum sentence. Most of these offenses apply even if people have no criminal record, but if you are convicted of repeated offenses for some of these “crimes,” you face mandatory life imprisonment.

If you witness or learn about marijuana cultivation, possession or transportation, Sensenbrenner’s legislation requires you to report this to police within 24 hours. You can then be forced, under threat of prosecution, to go undercover wearing clandestine listening devices to gather evidence against “drug criminals,” including your relatives.

H.R. 1528 greatly expands the circumstances under which citizens can be charged with crimes relating to selling, transferring, or cultivating marijuana near schools, public libraries, drug treatment facilities, daycare centers, and other places designated as “drug-free zones.”

It expands the definition of drug paraphernalia while increasing the scope of actions that can be considered paraphernalia crimes.

If prosecutors can prove that your marijuana grow room might have created electrical hazards, fires, fungi, pollution or other “endangerments of human life,” Sensenbrenner’s new law make it easier for you to be found guilty and sentenced to many years in prison.

Opponents of the legislation emphasize that Sensenbrenner has eliminated the legal distinction between various types of drugs, meaning that marijuana offenses are viewed by federal prosecutors and judges as equivalent to crimes involving heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines.

The legislation also toughens penalties for violators of the RAVE Act of 2002, which passed in 2003 after it was given a new name: the “Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act.” This anti-Ecstasy law targeted rave promoters, DJ’s, music clubs, concert venues, and other people and places that facilitated the “drug-using youth counterculture.” The law made it far easier for prosecutors to charge, convict, and imprison property owners, business owners, and managers who fail to “prevent” drug use committed by dancers, customers, employees, tenants, or other persons on their property. This legislation also specified that violators be subject to expensive civil liability penalties.

If Sensenbrenner’s legislation passes, someone who has been convicted of three violations of the anti-rave law will face mandatory life imprisonment without possibility of parole.

Wisconsin cannabis user Gary, who brought H.R. 1528 to our attention, said many Wisconsinites are outraged by Sensenbrenner’s actions; he is “pleading” with Cannabis Culture readers to help defeat the congressman’s proposal.

“I see this like we are Germans watching Hitler rise to power, and we have a duty to defeat him,” he said. “Sensenbrenner is a threat to our freedom. He has too much power. He basically has gone crazy. We have to stop him.”

Gary sent Sensenbrenner a letter opposing the national identification card and H.R. 1528.

“I received a form letter that said they appreciate my support,” Gary said. “So I called his office, from a pay phone because I don’t trust him; I think that his office traces all the calls that come in.”

A Sensenbrenner representative told Gary that the politician believes drug use and terrorism are America’s biggest problems. When Gary told the representative that marijuana use is not a threat to America, the representative asked Gary if he patriotically supported Sensenbrenner’s programs that provide free air travel and DVD players to American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Gary responded that he opposes all wars and all soldiers who volunteer for wars.

“It was like we were speaking two different languages,” Gary said of his conversation. “This person was some kind of alien life form. I’m sure she thought the same of me. Her point of view is she is right and I am wrong, and Sensenbrenner has the power to write the laws and I have to obey him. When I called her boss an ‘idiot,’ she said ‘threatening a member of Congress is a federal crime.’ That’s when I hung up, fast.”

Gary said that his experience as a political lobbyist initially scared him off, but that later he decided to do in-person protests at Sensenbrenner’s office and during the congressman’s speaking engagements in public forums.

“I feel like I have to do something bold,” he said. “I really don’t want to get involved, but at least if things get as bad as they look like they’ll get, I’ll know I did what I could to protest these people and their crazy laws. I’m scared to protest, but I’m scared to live in the kind of country that Sensenbrenner and his people are making. I’m just going to go for it. Wish me luck.”

Action information:

Contact your senators and congresspersons and ask them to kill Sensenbrenner’s H.R. 1528 and any bill that includes its provisions.

To contact Congressman James Sensenbrenner, note the 800 number, but also note that when you call an 800 number, the originating phone number is recorded by the person you call, so, for safety’s sake, use a pay phone!

Wisconsin Office snail mail address:
120 Bishops Way, Room 154
Brookfield, WI 53005-6294
Telephone: (262) 784-1111

Outside the Milwaukee Metro calling area, Sensenbrenner’s toll-free HOTLINE number: 1-800-242-1119.

His Washington, D.C. office address:
2449 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-4905
Telephone: (202) 225-5101
His E-mail address is: [email protected].