High Dudgeon

It was bound to happen sooner or later. Drug warriors have discovered the Internet.

In a report that is generating alarm among drug policy reformers, the Justice Department's National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) explains that the Internet, "variously referred to as the National Information Infrastructure or the information superhighway," has "revolutionized communications worldwide." Apparently it "serves today as the nation's primary medium for the exchange of news, mail, and general information." This Internet thingie "is at once a world-wide broadcasting capability, a mechanism for information dissemination, and a medium for collaboration and interaction between individuals and their computers without regard to geographic location."

That may sound pretty cool, but the government is worried that some drivers on the information superhighway may be under the influence of unconventional ideas about drugs. The NDIC report focuses on the "Threat to America's Youth" posed by these deviants, who include "drug offenders," "drug-culture advocates," "advocates of an expanded freedom of expression," "anarchist individuals and groups," and "other lawbreakers" (such as "pornographers and pedophiles").

Focuses may be too strong a word. The report is maddeningly vague about whom, exactly, the NDIC has in mind. Are organizations that provide honest drug information, such as the Alchemind Society or the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a Threat to America's Youth? What about drug policy reform groups such as the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or subversive publications such as High Times (or Reason, for that matter)?

The NDIC concedes that actual drug dealing is exceedingly rare online, so the Threat consists mainly of inconvenient facts and dissenting speech. Fortunately, the NDIC has discovered the First Amendment as well as the Internet. In a section on "Challenges Facing Policymakers and Law Enforcement," it explains there is precious little the government can do about people who refuse to join the crusade for a drug-free America, even if they use the National Information Infrastructure to spread their heresies.

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