What Are They Smoking?

The War on Drugs may soon become a war on words. No longer content simply to abuse the rights of drug users and dealers, Congress has set its sights on anyone offering information that might lead to drug use.

The Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act passed the Senate with unanimous support in November. Along with provisions for new narcocops and stiffer sentences for meth cooks and distributors, the bill would make it illegal "to teach or demonstrate the manufacture 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."

This provision would only apply to information that a prosecutor could prove figured in a crime. Even so, the potential effects are chilling --who knows how a reader might use one's wares? --and a number of Web and book publishers have expressed deep concern over the bill's potential effects on free speech. As Mike Hoy, head of the radical publishing house Loompanics Unlimited, told The Village Voice, "If it passes, we would probably pull all of our drug books, since I am unwilling to spend several hundred thousand dollars that I don't have."

Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah), sponsor of the House bill, is optimistic about its chances of passing this year. The ACLU, however, plans to mount a challenge the first time anyone is prosecuted for disseminating drug-related information.

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