The Anti-Meth Bill

The Anti-Meth Bill
Posted by FoM on May 25, 2000 at 23:10:06 PT
Source: Washington Post
The So-Called Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act has been burrowing its way through Congress without attracting much public attention. Some sunshine is called for. The Senate passed the bill last year both as part of a bankruptcy reform bill and as a stand-alone measure. Both parties have supported it, and the bankruptcy bill is now pending in a conference committee. 
Two provisions that criminalize the dissemination of information about drugs may violate constitutional protections of free speech. The first makes it a crime to "directly or indirectly advertise for sale" drugs or drug paraphernalia. When such advertising is in electronic form--such as on a Web page--the government could order the Internet service provider to remove it. But what is "indirect" advertising? The category is so vague as to threaten legitimate speech. For example, the provision could plausibly be read to prevent a group advocating the legalization of medical marijuana from providing a hypertext link to a site associated with a drug buyers club for AIDS patients. That can't be constitutional.The other provision makes it a felony to distribute information about the manufacturing of controlled substances intending that the information will be used to commit a crime or knowing that a recipient means to misuse it. This section, modeled on legislation prohibiting the distribution of bomb-making information, also seems overly broad, no matter how well-intentioned. The mere dissemination of information, especially without specific intent to further crime, seems within the bounds of free speech protections. Even where the publisher does intend that the information will be used for crimes, the First Amendment may still protect the disclosure in many instances.The methamphetamines bill has improved in conference with the removal of a troubling section that would have expanded federal authority to conduct secret searches. But more work needs to be done.Friday, May 26, 2000; Page A34  2000 The Washington Post Company Related Articles:Obscure Anti-Drug Provision Could Expand Searches Drug War Tactic An Attack on All Americans is a Sneak Attack on Our Digital Liberties Criminalizes Drug Links 
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