It’s getting pretty stressful living here in Obama Land. Got you thinking of using those airline miles to inhale a little weed in a cafe in Amsterdam or Lisbon, where it’s perfectly legal?
The United States House Judiciary Committee, ever vigilant when it comes to your health and welfare — apparently far more vigilant than you are — has come up with a new bill that would make such a plan a federal crime. Surely, you’re thinking, “You jest.” If only.
“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. H.R. 313, the “Drug Trafficking Safe Harbor Elimination Act of 2011,” is sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), and 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 medication.
“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.”
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.
You may well wonder why the House Judiciary Committee would want to get into wedding planning abroad? Ah. Well, the reason is to close a real but relatively small loophole in the law with a hugely massive and intrusive wet blanket:
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 States.
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 are legal in other countries. Which means this is an attempt to apply U.S. law all over the globe.”
As Somin writes,
Hopefully, this ill-conceived bill will die in Congress, perhaps in the Senate. If not, it will be interesting to see whether Obama would be willing to veto it. So far, the president has disappointed civil libertarian supporters who hoped that he would curb the War on Drugs. He has even reneged on his popular campaign promise to end federal medical marijuana prosecutions in states where medical marijuana is legal. Hopefully, this bill will be a bridge too far (or perhaps a joint too far) even for this administration.
So it may all come down to the President, who publicly admitted to cocaine use to deal with the stress of, well, being Obama, who could sign the bill into law to prevent you from taking a breather while on vacation from the stress of living under his Presidency. That’s why they invented irony.