I think someone in Congress forgot to fill out an order form for
toilet paper. Those yahoos on Capitol Hill keep using the Bill of
The War on Drugs, a case in point, just seems to lurch from one
unconstitutionality to the next, providing the feds an ever-blooming
bouquet of excuses to wipe their heels across the inalienable rights of
For all of law enforcement’s Herculean efforts to stamp out the use
of illicit drugs, rather than shunning smack, more folks are sniffing,
snorting, shooting and swallowing the stuff than ever before. And with
pill poppers, vein tappers and bong tokers upping the usage ante, police
are increasingly boldfacing the force in law enforcement.
These days, if the drug warriors aren’t (pardon the expression)
peeing all over the Fourth Amendment with things like
tests for school
shooting you in the back during a no-knock raid, they’re busily shoving a rag in the mouth of the First Amendment by trying to
keep you from talking about
narcotics at either the
Unable to stop the physical use of sundry naughty substances, the drug cops are increasingly focusing the drug war on the space between your ears and aiming at the communication it produces — trying to prevent discussion of those naughty substances.
Four recent bills highlight this move: the Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act — the threat of which
nationally back in May — the Bankruptcy Reform Act, and the House’s Club Drug Anti-Proliferation Act with its evil Senate twin, the Ecstasy Anti-Proliferation Act. Each of these bills has some sort of anti-drug speech component, making talking as bad as toking.
The first bill would make a lawbreaker out of anyone distributing information on how to manufacture controlled substances if the distributor knows the info will be used by folks to break federal law. (For what else, by the way, would it be used — philosophic contemplation?) To ensure passage, the provisions of the Anti-Meth Act have been Trojan-horsed into a totally unrelated bankruptcy bill.
The ideological offspring of these two are the House’s Club Drug Anti-Proliferation Act and the Senate’s Ecstasy Anti-Proliferation Act. As
Magazine reports, these bills go beyond their predecessors, seeking to “ban the spread of information about not only the manufacture of controlled substances, but also their use and acquisition.”
The danger here: MoJo’s Jake Ginsky writes, “The purported goal of the Ecstasy act is to heighten penalties for ecstasy dealers, and to cut down on the spread of information about the drug on the Internet. But, by prohibiting discussions — online or otherwise — about the use of drugs, the bill could stifle those who seek to reduce the harm associated with drug use.”
Like most congressmen, always making sure that wags and comedians stay usefully employed, the author of the Ecstasy bill, Sen. Bob Graham, paints himself into an interesting legal corner with his act, to boot. As Ginsky points out, “the bill practically makes itself illegal.” How? “A section of the bill calls for a greater effort to educate young people about the danger of mixing ecstasy with other club drugs and alcohol,” a provision which Eric Sterling of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, points out technically qualifies as distributing information about how to use the drug.
How about a window in that jail cell, Mr. Graham?
“If this law is being broken by its own author, it tells you how dangerous this kind of legislation is,” says Sterling. “It tells you that many other innocent, public-minded people are in danger of breaking this law.”
But forget about “other innocent, public-minded people” for a minute. Forget motives. Think instead about speech, about communication, about censorship. As the ACLU points out about the Anti-Meth Act, one of its provisions allows agencies like the FBI to pass judgment on whether dope-related Internet content is in violation of the law. “Internet service providers would then be ordered by law enforcement to take down any of these statements within 48 hours,” warns the ACLU, “without notifying the Web site owner — or be considered in violation of the law.”
You think the FBI isn’t up to the task? Think of the FBI’s e-mail trolling program,
What we’re talking about is the government becoming the arbiter of speech, deciding if communication is acceptable enough to be posted online — federal quality speech control.
Worse, the notion is catching on globally. Headman for the U.N.’s International Narcotics Control Board and former Italian prosecutor, Pino Arlacchi, announced in a June press briefing in New York, that the INCB is out to get “universal jurisdiction” to hound, arrest and try in international court folks who use the Net to “disseminate information about drugs.”
The high-profile briefing, reported by the New York Times and others, contained one fearsomely high-caloric nugget of food for worry. Arlacchi recommends going after those who post information critical of worldwide anti-drug efforts. “These views are spreading,” said Arlacchi, “and we are now thinking about some instrument to at least stop the expansion of this flow of information.”
Efforts to curb some speech always wind up becoming efforts to curb other speech. First it’s just info about drugs. Then it’s info critical of drug policy.
Unless you like that jackbooted saunter into the brave new world of government thought control, I’d suggest you
off to your representatives, telling them the only control needed in your life regarding drugs is what the Constitution allows — nothing.