Who Do You Trust When It Comes to Interpreting Drug War Legislation?

Yesterday, I blogged the Drug Policy Alliance's take on new drug war legislation known as the The Drug Trafficking Safe Harbor Elimination Act of 2010, which would amend the Controlled Substances Act (the major legislation governing the War on Drugs). DPA claims that the bill could "subject Americans to incarceration for drug offenses and public health interventions that are legal in the foreign country in which they’re committed." In other words, if you smoke dope in Amsterdam or shoot heroin overseas - even under a doctor's orders - you could get locked up in the U.S. for it.

Former Reason intern and current Daily Caller wunderkind Mike Riggs reports out the story and gets some quotes from the Dept. of Justice that suggest that pot smokers vacationing in Amsterdam are not likely to be the targets of DOJ actions. The new law springs from a 2007 case in which Saudi Arabians and Colombians brokered a deal partly in Miami to ship drugs from Venezuela to Paris (yes, my head hurts too).

“In this particular case, the federal prosecution was based on meetings the defendants held in Miami (among other locations), during which they conspired to transport cocaine from Venezuela to France,” the memo reads. The DOJ trotted out the conspiracy provision of the CSA, even though it was not intended for cases in which drugs never touched U.S. shores. The conviction didn’t stick.

“The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed the conviction, ruling that where the object of a conspiracy was to possess controlled substances outside the United States with the intent to distribute outside the United States, there is no violation of U.S. law, even though the conspiracy (meetings, negotiations, etc.) occurred on U.S. soil,” the memo reads.

So the new law is designed to make sure that feds can nab drug traffickers who chat in the U.S. even if they don't move any product in good ol' America:

“We’re taking away a safe haven,” the Judiciary Committee staffer said. “It’s a weird result of federal law that cartels can escape their home countries, come to the U.S., and plan to ship drugs from their home country to another country outside the U.S.”

But before you take a deep bong hit and relax, there's this:

[A] Judiciary Committee staffer says the DPA’s fears are overblown.

“So what? I say to someone, ‘I’m going to [possess] a dime bag of marijuana when I get to Amsterdam’?” the staffer said. “I can’t technically say that’s not within the four corners of the Controlled Substances Act. But how is a law enforcement officer supposed to know that?”

I'd say that any sort of idiotic prosecution that is possible under any drug war law is probable to happen at some point. And I think DPA is essentially right when they fret that the proposed law "expands the drug war at a time that most Americans want major drug policy reform."

Riggs' whole piece, worth reading, here.

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  • Heritage Foundation||

    Drugs are bad. The d-d-d-d-debate is concluded.

  • ||

    pot smokers vacationing in Amsterdam are not likely to be the targets of DOJ actions.

    So, the Administration is saying that prosecuting pot smoking that occurs jurisdictions where it is legal is not a high priority?

    Where have I heard that before?

  • The Gobbler||

    Beat me to it.

  • Eric Holder||

    But not me.

  • smeghead||

    Should have seen this one coming. Why is it that people think they know what is best and how other people should live.

  • People||

    Because, dear little smeghead, you're too stupid and unsophisticated to know.

    Duh.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    "...pot smokers vacationing in Amsterdam are not likely to be the targets of DOJ actions."

    There is way too much of this lately. Like Kagen's argument that campaign finance law has never been used to ban books in the past so there's no reason to be worried that anyone will use it that way in the future, instead of answering whether the law *could* be used for that or not. Freedom by default of enforcement is just dormant tyranny.

  • NeonCat||

    IIRC, the same "we're not interested in the small fish" argument was used at the time the civil forfeiture laws were changed. Only eeevul drug lords' property would be seized, not some dude's car because there was a roach in the ashtray.
    Give the drug police the power, and they will use it.

  • Spencer Smith||

    "I'd say that any sort of idiotic prosecution that is possible under any drug war law is probable to happen at some point."- Gillespie's Law

    Also, I'm sorry, but who the fuck cares that two people meet in the US to talk about something that might be a crime taking place in another country. Shouldn't we, at best, simply offer this evidence to the country where the crime is committed?

    I mean, if I was to say to someone that I was going to plan to rob a store in Paris- hell, even if I did plan to rob a store in paris, but I did the planning in Mexico, why should it matter until I actually attempt to rob the store? The crime is a french crime, not a mexican one in this case, right? I just don't get it.

  • Rich||

    I just don't get it.

    Keep on talking like that and you just might. 8-(

  • MattXIV||

    Even if you assume that blocking cocaine deals that don't involve product entering or leaving the US is the US goverment's business, shouldn't the actual criminal charges should be under either French and/or Venezuelan law anyway? If we rely on the US definition of controlled substances, we end up criminalizing negotiating transactions that are legal in the countries involved. If the bill were changed to rely on the countries involved definitions, then we can end up criminalizing transactions that would be legal if they occured in the US.

    Even used for it's intended purpose, this seems to be a pretty stupid law.

  • ||

    ""shouldn't the actual criminal charges should be under either French and/or Venezuelan law anyway? ""

    It should.

  • Dello||

    Are petty drug crime an extraditable offense? And would they become so?

    After all, the drug war can only work if we are willing to pay to haul a joint smoker back from Europe to stand trial here.

  • JD||

    What if the college kid on spring break in Amsterdam isn't willing to stay there until the statute of limitations expires?

  • ||

    Robert Thompson? Is that the cartoonist's name? I need to know what to call him when I am beating him over the head with an elementary school level English grammar textbook.

    Jesus, Gillespie, adding that to a post on the WOD is just cruel.

  • ||

    alt text dagny read the alttext okay?

  • ||

    I read the alt-text, but it didn't make the hurting stop.

  • ||

    Smoke a doob or something then, cannabinoids have been shown to have analgesic properties.

  • ||

    You're just a cyclops hatin' racist.

  • ||

    yup.

  • ||

    ""But how is a law enforcement officer supposed to know that?”""

    They can't seem to figure out if video taping is against the law.

  • thoreau||

    If a citizen of Singapore chews gum while on a trip in the US, will we report him to the authorities back home?

  • Rich||

    Of course. Gotta keep the Singaporeans happy so they'll take care of our drug criminal renditions.

  • Pope Jimbo||

    Why do we force the manufacturers of all sorts of innocuous products to spent countless hours and umpteen hours affixing labels to the stuff we buy warning us of all the dire consequences of using said product in stupid unintended ways and not require the same from our lawmakers?

    If my lawnmower comes with a sticker telling me not to try to use it as a hedge trimmer, why shouldn't this bill have a sticker on it warning the DEA not to prosecute a harmless pot smoker coming back from Amsterdam?

    I have to believe consumer products are misused much less frequently than laws passed by the goat fuckers in DC.

  • ||

    I have to believe consumer products are misused much less frequently than laws passed by the goat fuckers in DC.

    Funny you should mention those labels. Who do you think they're for? Conair has stopped keeping track of how many times one of their products has ALMOST killed a bathing congressperson.

  • Matty O||

    Give em an inch and they'll take a mile, this legislation will create serious issues for recreation pot smokers in the near future...Fucking Bureaucrats

  • Mad Max||

    HAROLD: But, Your Honor, an anonymous legislative staffer quoted in the media assured people that people like me wouldn't be prosecuted for smoking weed in a foreign country.

    KUMAR: Yeah, your Honor, we relied on those assurances.

    JUDGE: Oh, cry me a river, you dopeheads. According to this indictment, you guys conspired together, while in America, to go to the Netherlands for the purpose of using illegal drugs. And a jury of your peers found you guilty. Who cares what some anonymous staffer said to some journalist? I need to make an example of you guys - three years in federal PYITA prison.

  • ||

    “We’re taking away a safe haven,” the Judiciary Committee staffer said. “It’s a weird result of federal law that cartels can escape their home countries, come to the U.S., and plan to ship drugs from their home country to another country outside the U.S.”

    Even assuming you think the government should be able to decide what substances you can put in your body...how is planning to transport such substances from one foreign country to another any of our business?

  • cynical||

    Well, it might be polite to report it to the countries whose laws are being violated, but other than that, it really isn't.

  • wingnutx||

    On a positive note, that's the best comic that reason has posted in several years.

  • ||

    MORE PRISONS FOR PROFIT FOR PROHIBITION:

    One in every hundred Americans is now locked behind bars and one adult in 31 is under “correctional” supervision. As the prison population is growing faster than the government can build prisons, private companies see an opportunity for profit.

    The US government's outsources prisons and prisoners to the private sector. It is therefor in the interest of this sector to forcibly stand in the way of any criminal justice reform that would cut into their revenue, even if this results in sacrificing public safety or citizens rights.

    Here's a transcript of a 2008 PBS special:

    http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/419/transcript.html

    Though the average citizen does not know it, they very likely invest in the Prison-Industrial-Complex through the purchase of stock in the more than 2000 mutual funds in operation, as these derive at least some of their profits from inmate labor or prison construction. Companies such as Disney, General Electric, American Express, TWA, and Microsoft all make a portion of their profits from this industry

    http://www.hawaii.edu/hivandai.....ipline.pdf

    The following link will show you the very close relationship between Prohibition and the Prison-Industrial-Complex:

    http://www.hermes-press.com/prisons_drugs.htm

    The fact is, prison-for-profit prohibitionists don't care! They don't care that, historically, the prohibition of any mind altering substance has never succeeded. They don't care that America has the highest percentage of it's citizens incarcerated of any country in the history of the planet. They don't care about spawning far worse conditions than those they claim to be alleviating. These despotic imbeciles are actually quite happy to create as much mayhem as possible. After all, it's what fills their prisons and gets them elected.

    Here's what the UK Economist Magazine thinks of us: "Never in the civilised world have so many been locked up for so little" http://www.economist.com/node/16636027

  • ||

    I wondered what all the commotion was about. But just remember, U.S. citizens CAN ALREADY be prosecuted by the government for crimes they commit outside of the U.S. border.

  • ||

    So as much as you think there is more tolerance to drug use, or a move towards it, whether you personally think tolerance should be heeded, it seems the bigger issue at hand is the heavy weight of the law which going forward will be keeping tabs on your goings on no matter where you are in the world.

    http://scallywagandvagabond.co.....tle-bitch/

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