Drug Bill Threatens Right To Free Speech

Drug Bill Threatens Right To Free Speech
Posted by FoM on May 15, 2000 at 10:07:00 PT
Editorial Opinion
Source: Northwest Florida Daily
The House is scheduled on Tuesday to consider a truly dangerous piece of legislation disguised as simply another effort to make the war on drugs effective.Tucked away in a bill to increase penalties for possession, sale or manufacture of methamphetamines are some provisions that pose a threat to freedom of speech and the right to expect some measure of safety in one's own home.
Within S. 486 and the similar but not identical House version, HR 2987, called the Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act, there's a provision that makes it a federal crime "to teach or demonstrate the manufacturing of a controlled substance, or to distribute by any means information pertaining to, in whole or in part, the manufacture or use of a controlled substance."The provision is ostensibly aimed at preventing publication on the Internet of instructions on how to make methamphetamine, but the language is so broad that it could criminalize almost any published speech about illegal drugs. Some fear it could apply to advice from a doctor who writes a newsletter or goes on a radio program to discuss sensitive topics. For instance, the doctor might vehemently oppose drug use, but might offer advice regarding what dosages are harmful or what other drugs a controlled substance might interact with to cause even more harm than the controlled substance itself.The Controlled Substance Act, remember, regulates not just substances on Schedule I, which are illegal to use at all under federal law, but prescription drugs such as Valium and Tylenol with codeine.A few groups in Washington are trying to get this provision changed, and an amendment will almost certainly be introduced to eliminate what we see as an unconstitutional provision in the bill.The ACLU has been lobbying against it, arguing that the bill is so vague that it could even put mainstream publishers at risk. The American Booksellers Association and some publishing associations oppose the bill.The shocking thing is that such an effort to control speech could have been introduced and passed through the Senate so casually, as if the First Amendment didn't even exist. With all due respect to the necessity to make an argument a member of Congress might pay attention to, the First Amendment wasn't put in the Constitution to protect mainstream publishers. It was put there precisely to prevent the government from shutting up or criminalizing unpopular speech, speech on the margins of the mainstream, or speech in opposition to its policies and practices.The methamphetamine overkill bill has other objectionable provisions too, including one that would allow police to enter your house (with a warrant) while you're not home, search it, and never notify you. Under current law they can enter with a warrant when you're gone, but they have to notify you that they were there.We hope Congress retains some residual respect for the Constitution and will overwhelming approve amendments to strip the bill of its offending provisions.This article can be found on page A4 of the May 15, 2000 Daily News.  Published: May 15, 2000 1997-2000 Northwest Florida Daily NewsRelated Articles & Web Site:ACLU Bill Would Ban Drug Instructions Criminalizes Drug Links Drug War Bill Threatening Freedom of Speech 
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Post Comment

Name: Optional Password: 
Comment: [Please refrain from using profanity in your message]
Link URL: 
Link Title: