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September 2010
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Bad Bill Alert

Remember that final scene in Harold and Kumar go to White Castle, where Kumar convinces Harold to go with him to Amsterdam, reminding him that marijuana is legal in the Netherlands? Well, that might just get them thrown in jail for “conspiracy to commit, at any place outside the United States, an act that would constitute a violation of the U.S. Controlled Substances Act if committed within the United States,” under an extremely bad new law proposed by Representative Lamar Smith of Texas that might be voted on today.

The Drug Policy Alliance has an alert on it and is urging people to call Nancy Pelosi at 202-225-0100 and urging to stop the bill from going forward.

They note:

  • The Drug Trafficking Safe Harbor Elimination Act of 2010 (H.R. 5231), introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (the only House member to speak against reforming the racist crack/powder disparity), seeks to authorize U.S. criminal prosecution of anyone in the U.S. suspected of conspiring with one or more persons, or aiding or abetting one or more persons, to commit at any place outside the United States an act that would constitute a violation of the U.S. Controlled Substances Act if committed within the United States.
  • These penalties apply even if the controlled substance is legal under some circumstances in the other country. An American treatment provider working with doctors in England, Denmark, Germany, or Switzerland to provide heroin assisted treatment and sterile syringes to heroin users in those countries could face arrest. As could an otherwise law-abiding American planning with some friends to use marijuana legally in the Netherlands while on vacation there.
  • Even though this bill references drug trafficking in the title, it also criminalizes conspiring to possess and use marijuana or other drugs in other countries if more than one person is involved – even if drug use is decriminalized in that country. Thus, it imposes America’s harsh drug policies on other countries, and further criminalizes a health issue. The bill’s title is very misleading.
  • Even when applied against drug traffickers, The Drug Trafficking Safe Harbor Elimination Act would likely perpetuate injustice. Under U.S. drug conspiracy laws a person can be found guilty even when there are no drugs or other physical evidence involved. The uncorroborated word of someone pointing fingers to get a reduced sentence is all it takes. Moreover anyone convicted of being part of a drug conspiracy is punished not for the offense they actually committed but for all the offenses committed by members in the conspiracy. This has led to very low-level, impoverished, first-time offenders receiving sentences that are decades long. Conspiracy laws drive the so-called “girlfriend problem” whereby thousands of women every year are sentenced to harsh sentences for the crimes of their abusive partners.
  • The United States houses 5% of the world’s population but 25% of its incarcerated population. This excess of incarceration is a direct result of punitive and ineffective drug laws, which are currently crippling our social and economic resources. Trends in the U.S. are shifting toward alternative sentencing and away from the policies developed in the almost forty years since Nixon declared the “War on Drugs.” H.R. 5231 would be a detrimental step in the wrong direction.
  • House Leadership should not bring this problematic bill up for a vote. It has only two cosponsors and wasn’t even considered in committee.

It would be nice to see a bill like this one completely trashed in Congress. I would hope that the public relations success of the recent crack/powder sentencing disparity adjustment bill would help Congress realize that they don’t have to vote in favor of every stupid draconian drug law. That in fact, it won’t make them more popular with their constituents.

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66 comments to Bad Bill Alert

  • […] Bill Alert Bad Bill Alert DrugWarRant / Pete Guither / 09,22,2010 Remember that final scene in Harold and Kumar go to White […]

  • claygooding

    Lamar is the stupid sob that wants to know why the AG is allowing m/m.
    It is a good question,but he wants the federal government to stomp down m/m,not legalize it.
    Apparently Lamar smith does not realize that marijuana is a medicine as the AG has and that he does not keep in touch with reality or the polls.
    With over 70% of Americans supporting legalization of medical marijuana he is hopefully heading for the unemployment line.

  • ezrydn

    And they wonder why they’re losing seats, left and right. Has the “fringe” element suddenly moved into D.C.? But Gawd help anyone who complies with the country’s laws they live in, for fear of the All Powerful, All Reaching Controlled Substances Act. Congress must bow to the Act every night before they leave work and say a mantra or two. It’s become their “God.” I hope someone shoves it up the VPs butt when he leaves office in two years, or sooner.

    Yet, I expect even nuttier stuff in the next 41 days. They are really scared! Many Prohibs are showing signs of cracking under the strain of assumption. And, as they raise their shakey heads, we can pick them off, one at a time. We know how easy it is to do

    DrugWarRant is like “Central Command.” Pete tells us where the daily engagements are located and we head out to assault the objective by sitting on their “doorstep” and inundate them with irrefutable facts. Oh, and no R&R til after mid-November. We need to be ready for their “Tet Offensive.” Cartels won’t switch work to Burger King and Politicians won’t stop with the Word of the People. We all know that.

  • Billmelater

    American voters are sick of politicians who continue to push the hard line/prohibition agenda. It’s prohibition that got us into this mess & pushing it even harder is only going to make the violence worse. Prohibition = Anarchy. Legalization = regulation. Vote out anyone who keeps pushing prohibition. Because, do the same failed things the same failed ways will never be successful. Coming this close to the elections is a clear cut example of prohibiton forces trying to hoodwink voters into doubting they’re right to vote for the legalization of cannabis. Lamar Smith is aiming his diatribe squarely at California’s voters. Please, don’t be fooled again. Remember, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. As a conservative I’m ashamed of Mr Smith. But, Democrats are just as involved in pushing prohibition. Find out who’s involved in this scam & get rid of them. Vote for politicians who want to end the drug wars. The Volstead Act didn’t end use of the drug called alcohol. Now, we need to get rid of the rest of drug prohibitions I call Volstead Act II. Visit LEAP.cc for the facts & how to end this madness.

  • Servetus

    Maybe once Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) enacts his thought crime legislation, someone can make stupidity a crime and use it to arrest Lamar Smith.

  • paul

    Congress is depressing. They just can’t stop themselves from choosing to do the wrong thing most of the time. The weird thing is that most of them KNOW they are choosing to do something stupid or evil, but they somehow think they must.

  • Bill

    Let’s make talking about drugs a crime too, so that no one can inform others about the dangers of prohibition.

  • warren

    How do these idiots get in office? There has to be lots of deception or lots of idiots voting. The US is turning into this? Canada looks better every day.

  • Part of the problem is that bills get made and put forth without any real analysis of the potential consequences and uses of them. If you look at the GOP description of the bill, it almost sounds reasonable.

    However, a simple reading of the text of the bill helps you understand that it is so wide open that all sorts of mischief could ensue, particularly since we know that prosecutors love to pile on as many different charges as they can find.

  • Maria

    @warren Oh, Canada has it’s own bad bills. See S-10 for example. The bill that just won’t die.

    Doesn’t this essentially try to impose US law outside physical US jurisdiction? Even Saudi Arabia doesn’t criminalize conversations about a trip to Napa Valley. Wait, does it? And if it does, what’s that say about the US and these people?

    Would it also be conspiring if some 19 year olds planned a trip to Vancouver for some bar hoping?

    The wide array of charges this would open up is mind boggling. A simple phone call to your mate in Amsterdam to verify the hotel you’ve booked could fall under some sort of international criminal conspiracy. Jesus.

  • Actually, Maria, the bar hopping in Vancouver wouldn’t be covered because alcohol isn’t a substance covered by the Controlled Substances Act.

    The way it gets around imposing law outside US jurisdiction is by making the conspiracy the crime, which, as you note, opens the door wide to all sorts of abuse.

  • Maria

    Oh definitely. I should have been clearer with my intent. I was being a bit tongue in cheek with that comment to illustrate the absurdity inherent in the proposal.

    Definitely a bill that needs to be nipped in the bud, sad though about the already wasted money/time/resources spent getting it to this point.

  • Cannabis

    The bill in question, H.R. 5231, is not on the House Floor Schedule for Wednesday, September 22, 2010. It was on the weekly schedule, though. I hope that the DPA has more information on this bad bill and its chances of passing.

  • darkcycle

    Jeez. I look away for twenty-four hours and this. Back at the lectern, so less time for posting…
    Lamar, what an ass.

  • Shap

    Those Republicans and their quest for smaller government and freedom.

  • Won’t this bill ban IBOGAINE treatments in foreign countries as it is schedule 1 in the US?

  • Lokis

    let us huddle together in Prayer and hope that Lamar does get his way . Was it not Ronald Reagan who deemed Marajuana the most dangerous drug in the world? Can we not start to cooperate with the police and the courts and round up the users and get them off the streets? I am living in Kanada now due to illness and pot is so used here all that is left is a population of criminals and poor with no hope – save America and make it the shining example of freedom and hope that can only come from tough love and imprisonment. And remember those drug profits go directly into terror organizations.

  • ezrydn

    Another point that lends itself to abuse and misinterpretation is the use of the word “person,” instead of, maybe, “citizen.” It’s an “any one, any where” catch-22.

    This is what George Orwell was talking about!

  • j r

    One more reason to denounce your US citizenship.

  • @Douglas. No, it wouldn’t ban the treatments. It would put you in jail if you conspired with someone to go over there to give the treatments. This goes after U.S. citizens who conspire to commit an act in another country that would not be legal here.

  • denmark

    Unreal that these people still live in a dark cave oblivious to what American citizens want. (the dark cave is their sick mind by the way).

    Will have internet again come October. Have received emails from the Legalize Washington STATE in 2011 and am anxious to be a productive part of that movement as well.

    As Ron Paul said, “Revloutions take time”.
    Well, I’m still young enough to embrace that idea and join in in sending all these Yo-Yo’s packing.
    Time for some honesty for crying out loud.

  • Just Legalize It

    Patriot Act + The Drug Trafficking Safe Harbor Elimination Act of 2010 = FREEDOM BE GONE!!!

  • Swooper420

    I placed my call to the Speaker’s voicemail…fwiw. Hope everyone else does the same. It’s gonna take concentrated effort to stop this bill because “it’s tough on drug crime”. Hard for the pols to vote against … Sen. X voted against this very reasonable anti-drug bill, so vote for me, not for him…. pols are scared of their own shadows. We need to shine the light of truth and reason on them.

  • Bruce

    Whats disturbing is the way these uber-reichmeisters behave, with their rituals and serpent hand signals and their affinity for hanging out on posh yachts up the coast of B.C. choppering around to blast Grizzly bears and hanging out at fancy fishing resorts polluting my waters and my air with their bizjets and ungodly bilgepump stench of which Hitler would be proud. I don’t take rumors of a shorts wearing GWB in my vicinity lightly. These creeps are
    TOXIC TO LIFE
    TOXIC TO LIFE

  • Just me.

    Why are we not allowed to live the laws of the land we go to? Doesnt this law imply ownership? Hello ,I dont belong to anyone…

  • ezrydn

    Pete,

    If it’s not illegal here (and you know where “here” is), then I’m at a loss as to how “conspiracy” could be defined. I’m sure we, as individuals, even groups of individuals, break other countries laws in the country where we reside without ever knowing about it. I’m even wondering about the constitutionality of such a bill.

  • It’s a really stupid bill, but the conspiracy would be between U.S. citizens who are planning to do something, in another country, which would be illegal if they did it in the U.S. So, let’s say, I decide to purchase some drugs in another country and don’t have any plans on bringing them back here. As part of that consideration, I get a call that my wife answers. She and I can now be prosecuted for conspiracy to traffic in the amount of drugs that I had planned to purchase abroad, even though the feds really have no law against me purchasing drugs in another country.

    The Constitutionality is a good question. I’m not sure if judges would allow a bill that essentially says that a crime exists based solely on its connection to an action that isn’t a crime but would be if it took place somewhere else.

  • BruceM

    No matter how insanely stupid, it’s a law about drugs and the title (which is all that the congressmorons will read) makes it sound reasonable and necessary – you know, for the children – so it will absolutely be passed. Every democrat will proudly vote for it too. They all want to look as Republican as they can these days.

    Pete: IAAL, and it would be constitutional under existing precedent, sadly enough. But even if existing precedent on the subject would imply that it would be unconstitutional, never forget the “Drug Exception” to the Constitution. The Constitutional simply doesn’t apply when drugs are involved. It can’t – otherwise the drug laws wouldn’t be able to be enforced. You can’t enforce a federal law that prohibits me from having a leaf in my pocket consistent with the Constitution. It’s a logical impossibility. So the courts have created a de facto “drug exception” to the Constitution. But US courts have held laws that deal with actions that take place outside the US are constitutional, the big example being the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (one of the dumbest non-drug laws ever to be passed by Congress).

  • BruceM

    Also, it’s long been established that it’s illegal for a US citizen to buy a Cuban cigar while visiting another country where they are not illegal. Bill Clinton got in some trouble several years ago (he was never prosecuted of course as he was no longer president) when he bought a Cuban cigar (a Bolivar corona, if I recall correctly) at London’s Heathrow Airport. It’s still a violation of US law even though the criminal act took place outside of the USA.

    America – land of the free my ass.

  • paul

    The plan here is to erode the idea that American laws stop at the border. We’ve had a few now–laws against bribing foreign officials, laws against sex tourism, and now this possible law against conspiring to travel to use drugs or buy them.

    It is just a natural outgrowth of the metastasizing cancer that is the federal government. This law will do nothing to increase safety in America or even put more drug lords in jail, for whatever that is worth. Instead, it is just the federal government increasing its reach and power, because that is its nature. You can’t even leave the country and be free of our laws.

    The next step is an expansion of laws that prevent certain classes of people from ever leaving the country by denying them passports. Already, I believe there are rules against parents owing back child support from leaving or getting passports, and now sex offenders. These are pretty unpopular people, so everyone is pretty much fine with this, but they will find other people to include in this list soon. Their ultimate goal is people who owe back taxes should not be allowed to leave. And you know what kind of government you have when you’re not allowed to leave…

    Make no mistake–we are a police state. Nobody in the government is going to stand up and say, “OK! we are now officially a police state!”, but we are. I know a lot of people reflexively refuse to believe that the land of the free has become a police state, but the evidence is all around you. We have 25% of the worlds prison population, and the cops are everywhere hassling people for petty things all the time. The abuses are legion and well documented–no need to go into all that here.

    I don’t think this is part of any kind of planned conspiracy, although there certainly are people in government who like these ideas and push for them. Rather, it is just…happens. Each element on the way to a police state makes some sort of sense, and as the state gets stronger, it takes these steps.

    This is why we must take serious action to roll back federal power. It may already be too late and the battle already lost, but we must try. The drug laws are the most obvious symptom, but other laws restricting freedom and expanding the power of the state need to go, too.

  • vicky vampire

    All I can say is everyday we march toward FASCISM,no folks I don’t throw that word around alot. I’ beyond angry numb to deep in y bones. and yes I’ a republican shame on my party they are pathological in their obseesion with drugs.

  • little brother

    I just committed a thoughtcrime by reading this article. War is peace, Slavery is freedom, Ignorance is strength.

  • B-Roll

    is it wrong to be afraid of my own government who is running riot with power that we the citizens of this now breaking country should be able to take back.

  • Just me.

    Once again , this(and others) laws implies you are government property. Am I wrong?

  • quick, let’s get tickets for the cannabis cup!

  • BruceM

    just me: the very notion that anti-abortion movement is based on, that the state has an interest in all unborn fetuses – all future taxpayers, future workers, future soldiers, and future inmates – is indisputable proof that we are all government property. In fact both sides of the debate concede the government has a legitimate interest in all unborn fetuses, the only question is at what point that interest outweighs the freedom of the mother to terminate the fetus (Roe v. Wade held that point is the viability of the fetus). Meanwhile all the anti-abortion nuts are demanding that we American citizens do NOT have any right to privacy. Why would a rational person insist they don’t want or have a right to privacy from the government? They wouldn’t… these people are acting based on religion which is per se irrational. But the point is, when you have no right to privacy and when the government has a “legitimate interest” in your body, you are unquestionably government property – there’s no debating it. We’re all just tax-generating, GDP-making, soldier drone slaves. And we’re so easily convinced to fight so hard to give up our rights to anything that might conceivable make us less productive government property, i.e. our fundamental right to use drugs.

    We get the government we deserve. In 50 years we’ll all be muslim slaves, if we have not been totally wiped out by islamic terrorists first. But we’ll allow it proud in our knowledge that we’re wonderfully tolerant of our new muslim overlords.

  • darkcycle

    Bruce, if you really believe that “Muslims” want to be our overlords, or that anywhere on earth there is some Islamic sect that wants to impose Sharia law on the U.S. (there isn’t) you are already buying into their fables and propaganda. I bet you think the people who crashed those planes into the WTC on Sept. 11, 2001, were RELIGIOUS fanatics. They were not, they were political fanatics. Al Quaida is a political organization, with political goals. I’m gonna go ahead and piss some people off here, but this is the way it really is. Before you fly into an irrational rage over anything I may say from here on out, remember…you have been manipulated for over a decade now, and the facts are going to seem very strange….
    Your government wants you to believe that they are some sort of implacable enemy whom you have no choice but to fight to the death(sometimes ‘they’ is Al quida, sometimes ‘they’ are just generically muslim fundamentalists). That way, no one pushes for rational solutions, or god forbid, wants to negotiate a solution. You can’t have discussions with fanatics, after all. That way, wars in a couple of countries that may go on forever aren’t such a bad deal, the altermative seems to be slavery or a global war that goes on forever. But if your enemy has political goals, that means that somewhere there has to be a political solution. That won’t work if your real goal is forever war.
    I had alot more to say, but I’ve deleted it. I’ll let it go. This is Drug War Rant, not Terrorism War Rant.

  • BruceM

    Wow. I’m not even going to engage a discussion with someone who thinks 9-11 was about “politics” and not religion. 9-11 was faith in action. Enjoy your political correctness, you’ll feel great and mature and responsible until you realize one day that you’ve been wrong the whole time.

    I only brought up islam because we tolerate it and welcome it the same way we tolerate and welcome our rights being taken away. And don’t you dare start spewing out the r-word, islam is NOT a race. It’s an ideology, just like being anti-drug.

  • Bailey

    Sadly, few in DC that don’t already agree with us on drug reform care about individual rights, constitutionality, logic, or other troublesome things.

    What argument would be accurate and successful to moderates? Deficits. Rep. Smith’s legislation would require the federal government to track, investigate, prosecute and jail US citizens on the whole planet!

    Just say “I can’t believe Lamar Smith wants Obama to police US citizens worldwide? Apparently this bill will let the feds prosecute people who aren’t even breaking laws where they are. Can you even imagine what it’ll cost to bust every college student getting high in the red light district? Or investigate every tourist on psychedelics in South America? Drug laws don’t even work in America, how much will we be spending to do the same thing worldwide.”

    Your friend: “That’s so true, I hope they don’t pass that dumb bill.”

    You: “Yeah. Hey, I accidentally dialed the House of Representative switchboard. Why don’t you give them your zip code and repeat what you just said to your member of congress.”

    Them: “I dunno…”

    You: The bill is called the Drug Trafficking Safe Harbor Elimination Act of 2010 (H.R. 5231). Oh, it’s ringing…”

    Them: “Well ok, if it’s ringing.”

    And though I know nothing about islam, terrorism, or even 9/11…it sorta seems like the dorks who flew planes into buildings cared about religion, and the dorks who financed it cared about politics. Please don’t flame me…

  • Duncan20903

    DrugWarRant is like “Central Command.” Pete tells us where the daily engagements are located and we head out to assault the objective by sitting on their “doorstep” and inundate them with irrefutable

    Well I haven’t been able to keep the last few weeks. It used to be that I could pretty much read everything that I found when searching the Google, make some comments, and have time left over.

    The debate over cannabis laws is raging lately.

  • Shap

    Irrefutable: if the 9/11 hijackers didn’t believe in the toilet paper otherwise known as the Quoran, 9/11 would just be another random day on the calendar. (oh and just to be fair any religious book I regard as toilet paper/fairy tales).

  • COCO

    talk about ignorance – there are still people obstensibly with reason not understand that 911 – the THREE towers down in NYC has not been even properly investigated – google WTC 7 for a smoking gun.

  • BruceM

    Shap: absolutely. 9-11 was caused entirely by religion. It infuriates me to watch all these 9-11 retrospectives on the anniversary each year and not once – NEVER – do they mention the words “islam” or “religion” – the sole and proximate cause of this horrible, intentional act of murder. It was faith-based terrorism. It was not due to politics, it was not due to economics, it was not due to poverty, monetary policy, or disputes over land, water, or oil. It was due to the words written on the USED toilet paper known as the koran. To be sure, the bible, the book of mormon, dianetics, the torah, they’re all violent writings of ancient crazy people (actually the book of mormon and dianetics are quite modern). But it pisses me off beyond anything any drug warrior has ever done when people make excuses for religion and say it was not the cause of 9-11. That’s the same sort of brain dead politically correct stupidity that causes things like the “Drug Trafficking Safe Harbor Elimination Act” to get passed unanimously with huge smiles, handshakes, and a feelgood aura of responsibility and maturity.

    If an American Christian hijacked an airplane and crashed it into the Muslim’s holy rock in Mecca, they would have no problem placing the blame on the proper source. That’s because as horrible as muslims are, they are NOT weak, feeble-minded feelgood wimps like we are. We can’t even admit that we’re at war with Islam. And as long as morons can point to ONE muslim who doesn’t have dynamite strapped to his chest, Islam will be immune from all criticism – “Not all muslims are terrorists” is the repeated refrain of the forces of politically correctness, always said in the same snooty, haughty tone of voice as someone telling a smoker that cigarettes are bad for them.

    We keep giving Islam victory after victory. Some wacko jesus-screwer religious nut wanted to express his right to free speech and burn a koran on 9-11 (a perfectly reasonable way to remember the dead of 9-11 as far as I’m concerned, though he was doing it for the wrong reasons (i.e. “Islam is a false religion made by satan to divert people from the True religion of Christ”). The universal response from Americans was that doing so would endanger us all, and especially American troops overseas. So American policy is that muslims are wild animals who cannot control themselves; like wild grizzly bears we all have a duty not to agigate them because if we do, they will become violent and harm people and since they’re just animals reacting to stiumuli, it’s OUR FAULT when they kill people due to our agitation.

    Believe it or not, I don’t agree with the official US policy of Muslims being inhuman wild animals. I think they’re actually human beings, and as such, they need to be held to the same standard of behavior and responsibility as all other human beings. Christians don’t get to kill me if I burn a bible, and they all understand and accept that. If Muslims really are wild animals that can’t control themselves, then they need to be put in cages where wild animals belong.

  • Fascist lover

    thanks Bruce – so time travel is possible?

  • darkcycle

    Wow. Bruce, listen to yourself. That is as irrational as any drug warrior’s rant. Sounds to me like you don’t even want to hear alternate views, and maybe like you’d like to lock up (?) people who don’t agree with you….

  • BruceM's mom

    yes Darkcycle – Bruce is a bad boy with more vocabulary than sense.

  • Maria

    Oh for the love of … I was hoping (naively) that this would be one of the few places where discussions don’t devolve into 9/11 back and froths (pun intended). Seriously there’s needs to be an updated set of Godwin’s laws . The second law of Godwin – as an online discussion touching upon politics grows longer, the probability of someone bringing up 9/11 approaches 1.

    On a random ‘adding gas to the fire’ note. I’ve had an Indian born Shi’a coworker rant on for a good hour that the Sunnis are in fact wanting to impose sharia law on everyone. At times it felt like listening to a Protestant rant about the Catholics but I do know enough to think that things aren’t so cut and dry as to be “the west is stupid, racist and ignorant.” Though there’s a lot of that as well.

    There are real lines in the sand when it comes to religions and regional politics, just like there are real lines in the sand when it comes to prohibition and drug laws.

  • Shap

    Sorry but I’m in total agreement about the Muslims being so oversensitive to the point where nonmuslims can’t burn Islamic religious books or televise an image of Muhammad or even draw one without some giant controversy ensuing. Animals is a perfect way of describing people who are drawn to murder and death as a result of such expression.

  • new guy

    so what is your point Maria – your sophmoric sophistry likely impresses your sweat shop colleagues but what are you really trying to say?

  • Maria

    Cute alliteration and yes it seems that I did indeed forget that the internet demands A.D.D. approved bullet points for quick and easy consumption.

    Let me put it this way, if ‘India’ = ‘Sweatshop’ is the extent of someones knowledge about the world then my point can only be this, read better, read more. That could be a start.