This article is from Vol. 1, Issue No. 1 pages 52-54 (Winter 1999/2000)
2000 CENTER FOR COGNITIVE LIBERTY AND ETHICS
All rights reserved worldwide.  ISSN: 1527-3946

 

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Federal Bill Threatens
Free Speech on Entheogens

By Richard Glen Boire, Esq.

If you bristle at the thought of government censorship especially when related to the so-called War on Drugs, there is a bill in the Senate right now that you need to know about and actively oppose. Buried in the crannies of a get-tough-on methamphetamine bill, are several provisions that seek to stifle free speech related to all controlled substances, not just methamphetamine.

A section of the Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act of 1999, would make it a federal crime, punishable by up to ten years in a federal prison, to teach, demonstrate, or disseminate information, on how to manufacture a controlled substance, with the intent that the information be used to commit a federal crime.

If this bill passes, any book, magazine, web site, seminar, or even a quiet fireside talk between intimate friends, which shares information that might facilitate someone's manufacture or cultivation of a scheduled entheogen, including marijuana, would become criminal. A writer for a print or on-line publication who explains a new method for cultivating psilocybin mushrooms, would commit a federal crime. An author of an article containing information on how to grow Cannabis, even for medical use, would be subject to arrest.

Pursuant to another odious section of the same bill, any person who uses a telephone, the federal mails, or a web site "to post, publicize, transmit, publish, link to, broadcast, or otherwise advertise any matter (including a telephone number or electronic or mail address) knowing that such matter has the purpose of seeking or offering, or is designed to . . . facilitate a transaction” involving drug paraphernalia, would commit a felony.

Some studies have shown that vaporizers may be a less dangerous way to inhale some drugs, including medical marijuana. If this bill passes, it would become a federal crime (punishable by up to three years in a federal pen) for an operator of a web site to hyperlink to a company selling water pipes and vaporizers commonly used to smoke marijuana. An operator of an AIDS or cancer web site that provides information on how some patients may find relief by smoking medical marijuana, and who includes a link to a company selling a vaporizer, would be subject to arrest and imprisonment for up to thirteen years -- ten years for providing information that might facilitate a patient's medical use of marijuana (the federal government considers marijuana a "controlled substance" even when used for medical purposes, and even when used in a state such as California that permits medical marijuana use), plus three more years for “indirectly advertising” drug paraphernalia! A reporter who writes about the drug war and whose article appears online, could be arrested if the report included a link to a harm reduction site that itself happens to link to a company selling vaporizers or bongs.

Earlier this year, the federal government launched a billion dollar anti-drug “National Youth Anti-Drug Media [Scare] Campaign” splattering anti-drug messages in popular magazine and newspapers, on radio stations, and during prime-time television shows. By some accounts, the costly effort has done nothing to reduce drug use by teens or adults and may even have backfired. An increasing number of kids consider the advertisements as ever more sensationalist “just say no” propaganda.1 Many people have simply stopped listening to the U.S. government when it talks about drugs. So, what’s a jilted government to do when its citizens reject its propaganda? It goes after the voices of dissent, desperately trying to shut them up by threatening to arrest and imprison anyone who shares accurate information contrary to the party line.

This bill was introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California and Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, but more and more senators are supporting it. On August 5, 1999, the bill cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee, and on November 19, the last day of the Senate’s session, the bill was merged with Senate Bill 486, the “DEFEAT Methamphetamine Act.” The Senate is currently out of session, but action is expected on this bill when the Senate reconvenes on January 24, 2000.

If you object to this political censorious attempt to rid the world of any information that disagrees with Big Brother’s agenda, let your representatives know about it. Tell them you oppose their attempt to censor and criminalize free speech. You can follow all the developments of SB 486 at the CCLE's Web site: www.cognitiveliberty.org.

Senator Dianne Feinstein can be reached at United States Senate, 331 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (202) 224-3841, senator@feinstein.senate.gov.

Senator Orrin Hatch can be reached at Office of Senator Orrin Hatch, 131 Russell Senate Office Building - Washington, DC 20510, (202) 224-5251, senator_hatch@hatch.senate.gov.

 

Notes

1 According to the most recent National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (available on the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics web site), one in ten teenagers uses Cannabis or other illegal drugs—nearly double what it was in 1992. Not only is use up, despite the government’s anti-drug propaganda, but the propaganda campaign itself may in some cases actually contribute to increased alcohol and other drug use by teenagers. An Indiana University study compared two groups of high school seniors: students exposed to Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) classes since 5th grade, and those who had no exposure to DARE. The DARE graduates showed a higher use-rate of alcohol, tobacco, “hallucinogens,” and narcotics than the non-DARE students. (See, Wysong, et al. 1994. “Truth and DARE: Tracking Drug Education to Graduation and as Symbolic Politics, Social Problems, 41(3): 448-472.)

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Richard Glen Boire, Esq. is the executive director of the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics.