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U.S. Drug Policy Would Be Imposed Globally By New House Bill

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A Must Read By Everyone!  OMG! 🙁   Where The Hell Was The ACLU…?

By Radley Balko    10-09-2011

The House Judiciary Committee passed a bill yesterday that would make it a
federal crime for U.S. residents to discuss or plan activities on foreign
soil that, if carried out in the U.S., would violate the Controlled
Substances Act (CSA) — even if the planned activities are legal in the
countries where they’re carried out. The new law, sponsored by Judiciary
Committee Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) allows prosecutors to bring
conspiracy charges against anyone who discusses, plans or advises someone
else to engage in any activity that violates the CSA, the massive federal
law that prohibits drugs like marijuana and strictly regulates prescription


  "Under this bill, if a young couple plans a wedding in Amsterdam, and as
part of the wedding, they plan to buy the bridal party some marijuana, they
would be subject to prosecution," said Bill Piper, director of national
affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates for reforming the
country’s drug laws. "The strange thing is that the purchase of and smoking
the marijuana while you’re there wouldn’t be illegal. But this law would
make planning the wedding from the U.S. a federal crime."

The law could also potentially affect academics and medical professionals.
For example, a U.S. doctor who works with overseas doctors or government
officials on needle exchange programs could be subject to criminal
prosecution. A U.S. resident who advises someone in another country on how
to grow marijuana or how to run a medical marijuana dispensary would also be
in violation of the new law, even if medical marijuana is legal in the
country where the recipient of the advice resides. If interpreted broadly
enough, a prosecutor could possibly even charge doctors, academics and
policymakers from contributing their expertise to additional experiments
like the drug decriminalization project Portugal, which has successfully
reduced drug crime, addiction and overdose deaths.

The Controlled Substances Act also regulates the distribution of
prescription drugs, so something as simple as emailing a friend vacationing
in Tijuana some suggestions on where to buy prescription medication over the
counter could subject a U.S. resident to criminal prosecution. "It could
even be something like advising them where to buy cold medicine overseas
that they’d have to show I.D. to get here in the U.S.," Piper says.

Civil libertarian attorney and author Harvey Silverglate says the bill
raises several concerns. "Just when you think you can’t get any more
cynical, a bill like this comes along. I mean, it just sounds like an
abomination. First, there’s no intuitive reason for an American to think
that planning an activity that’s perfectly legal in another country would
have any effect on America," Silverglate says. "So we’re getting further
away from the common law tradition that laws should be intuitive, and should
include a mens rea component. Second, this is just an act of shameless
cultural and legal imperialism. It’s just outrageous."

Conspiracy laws in general are problematic when applied to the drug war.
They give prosecutors extraordinary discretion to charge minor players, such
as girlfriends or young siblings, with the crimes committed by major drug
distributors. They’re also easier convictions to win, and can allow
prosecutors to navigate around restrictions like statutes of limitations, so
long as the old offense can be loosely linked to a newer one. The Smith bill
would expand those powers. Under the Amsterdam wedding scenario, anyone who
participated in the planning of the wedding with knowledge of the planned
pot purchase would be guilty of conspiracy, even if their particular role
was limited to buying flowers or booking the hotel.

The law is a reaction to a 2007 case in which the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of
Appeals threw out the convictions of two men who planned the transfer of
cocaine from a Colombian drug cartel to a Saudi prince for distribution in
Europe. Though the men planned the transaction from Miami, the court found
that because the cocaine never reached the U.S. and was never intended to
reach the U.S., the men hadn’t committed any crime against the United

  But the Smith bill goes farther than necessary to address that outcome in
that case. "They could have limited this law to prohibiting the planning of
activities that are illegal in the countries where they take place," Piper
says. "That would have allowed them to convict the guys in the Miami case.
There was an amendment proposed to do that and it was voted down on party
lines. They intentionally made sure the bill includes activities that legal
in other countries. Which means this is an attempt to apply U.S. law all
over the globe."

It wouldn’t be the first time. Over the last several years, a number of
executives from online gambling companies have been arrested in U.S.
airports and charged with felony violations of U.S. gambling, racketeering
and money laundering laws, even though the executives were citizens of and
the companies were incorporated in countries where online gambling is legal.

Last May, one U.S. citizen saw how the police can apply in reverse. Joe
Gordon, a native of Thailand who has lived in America for 30 years, was
arrested while visiting his native country for violating Thailand’s
lèse-majesté law, which bans criticism of the Thai royal family. Gordon had
posted a link on his blog to a biography of Thailand’s king that has been
banned in Thailand.

In recent years, officials have also attempted to impose U.S. white collar
crime policies on other countries as well, such as pressuring Switzerland to
soften it’s privacy laws to help American officials to catch tax cheats and
money launderers.

But Silverglate says the Smith bill breaks new ground. "I’m horrified by the
pressure on Switzerland, and that’s probably the libertarian in me, but at
least there you have an argument that there’s an American interest at stake.
Here, I don’t see any interest other than to a desire to impose our moral
and cultural preferences on the rest of the world."