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US Senate passes cannabis-info ban
Harsh censorship bill unanimously backed by Senate, and now before House subcommittees.
by By Dana Larsen 12th January 2000
On November 19th 1999, the US Senate unanimously passed a vicious bill which proposes to ban Cannabis Culture, and any other publication or website which discusses the manufacture or use of any controlled substance.
The bill is called the "Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act 1999", but it's actually aimed at anyone that speaks out in favour of marijuana legalization, harm reduction, or an end to the drug war. The penalty for violating this info-ban is up to 10 years imprisonment, and a hefty fine.
The section which would ban pro-pot publications is as follows:
It shall be unlawful for any person:
This section was described by Senators as being aimed solely at "the dissemination of methamphetamine recipes on the Internet." Yet the clause is so broadly worded that it could easily apply to a doctor recommending marijuana to a patient, as well as banning grow books, pamphlets explaining the safer use of drugs, brochures promoting needle sterilization and exchange, and even website links to other sites which do any of these things.
PARAPHERNALIA AD BAN
Senator Joseph Biden explained the bill's other censorship aspects. "The bill also tightens the restrictions on direct and indirect advertising of illegal drug paraphernalia and Schedule I drugs. Under this legislation, it would be illegal for on-line magazines and other websites to post advertisements for such illegal material or provide `links' to websites that do."
The federal Crime Control Act of 1990 makes it a crime to "sell or offer for sale drug paraphernalia." This law is why US bongmakers all describe their products as for "tobacco use only." This new bill expands that law, and other federal anti-drug legislation.
The law bans paraphernalia merchants from using "any communication facility to initiate the posting, publicizing, transmitting, publishing, linking to, broadcasting, or other advertising of any matter."
Do you think all this censorship is obviously an unconstitutional violation of free speech? Biden doesn't, explaining: "We crafted this language carefully so that we restrict the sale of drug paraphernalia without restricting the First Amendment."
HARM TO THE ENVIRONMENT
The bill also adds a ten-year mandatory minimum sentence for causing "risk of harm to the environment" while producing any banned susbtance. This clause is also supposedly aimed at supposedly toxic methamphetamine labs, yet it could also be applied to outdoor cannabis growers modifying terrain to suit their illegal garden.
The bill was passed unanimously by the US Senate (S.486), and its identical "companion bill" (HR.2987) is already before the House of Representatives. In November the bill was referred to the House Subcommittee on Crime and also the Subcommittee on Health and Environment.
These committees will begin looking at the bill sometime in January. If it is eventually passed by the House of Representatives then it would almost certainly become law, as there is no indication that President Clinton would try to veto the bill.
REPERCUSSIONS AND DANGERS
This legislation could be used to selectively target any magazines, books or publishing companies deemed too subversive for the feds. Print publications and books would be very vulnerable.
Major magazine distributors would likely cave in to any pressure from the authorities, leaving magazines like Cannabis Culture and High Times with no way of reaching US newsstands.
Even the supposedly censorship-proof internet could be vulnerable. While it's difficult to stop independent websites based outside of the US, major online retailers like Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble could be coerced into dropping the hundreds of grow books and drug-related titles they now carry.
At Cannabis Culture we feel that the censorship aspects of this legislation are aimed largely at us and our aggressive combination of pro-pot journalism and mail-order seed ads. The Senate bill was introduced one month after US Drug Czar General McCaffrey specifically quoted the Cannabis Culture website in a speech before Congress, and complained that he was "getting rolled in the public arena."
The restrictive bill was co-sponsored by Senators Orrin Hatch and Dianne Feinstein. Herešs some excerpts from Hatch's speech made while introducing this repressive legislation:
"I was shocked to discover that those who embrace the drug counter-culture these days are using the internet to promote, advertise, and sell illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia.
"In 1992, Congress passed a law that made it illegal for anyone to sell or offer for sale drug paraphernalia. This law resulted in the closings of numerous 'head shops,' yet, now the out-of-business store owners are selling their illegal drug paraphernalia on the internet
"This bill will not only prevent web sites from advertising drug paraphernalia for sale, but it will also prohibit web sites that do not sell drug paraphernalia from allowing other sites that do from advertising on its web site
"There are even web sites that advertise for sale marijuana and poppy seeds, along with growing and nurturing instructions. This type of behavior is not only reprehensible, but it is also illegal, and this clarifying provision can help stop this behavior from continuing over the internet."
OTHER POT CENSORSHIP
CANADA - In Canada, all "instruments and literature for illicit drug use" was banned in 1988, their import or sale punishable with a $100,000 fine and six months in jail.
Hundreds of shops across Canada were shut down by police threats and raids and pot magazines and growbooks were unavailable. The law remains on the books, although now only sporadically enforced.
ILLINOIS - Within the next few months the Illinois state legislature will debate Bill 792, which bans sharing "information about cannabis by the Internet," if it can be used for an illegal activity.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Subscribe to Cannabis Culture Magazine! Write to: Box 15, 199 West Hastings, Vancouver BC, CANADA, V6B 1H4 Call us at: (604) 669-9069, or fax (604) 669-9038. Visit Cannabis Culture online at http://www.cannabisculture.com/
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