Human Trafficking

Selling Drugs to Sex Workers Could Be Human Trafficking Under the Senate's New 'PROTECT Act'

The bipartisan bill says "using drugs or illegal substances to cause a person to engage in a commercial sex act" or in any kind of labor counts as human trafficking.


Much of the U.S. government's effort to "stop human trafficking" consists of defining a larger and larger subset of activity as trafficking, then cracking down on this ancillary activity. New legislation from Sen. Sherrod Brown (DOhio) would expand this territory even further. Under Brown's bill, "using drugs or illegal substances to cause a person to engage in a commercial sex act" or in any kind of labor would be punishable under federal criminal laws related to human trafficking.

It's certainly wrong (and should be criminal) to force drugs on someone in order to get them to do something they wouldn't otherwise consent to, be that engaging in any sort of sex or performing any sort of work. That's why doing so is already punishable under a range of criminal statutes.

But Brown's bill (S. 2197) is vaguely worded enough to open up new possibilities, like charging anyone who sells drugs to a sex worker as a sex trafficker (or at least threatening them with this if they don't cop to some lesser offense) and counting any informal trade of drugs for any sort of labor as a human trafficking offense.

Specifically, the bill amends federal criminal law to say that obtaining any work or services "by means of supplying, furnishing, or providing any drug or illegal substance to a person, including to exploit the addiction of the person or cause the person to become addicted to the drug or illegal substance," counts as a forced labor offense. Likewise, it would be counted as sex trafficking to recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide, obtain, advertise, patronize, or solicit someone for sex by means of "supplying, furnishing, or providing any drug or illegal substance to a person, including to exploit the addiction of the person or cause the person to become addicted to the drug or illegal substance."

Notice that neither provision makes using exploitative or addictive means a necessary part of committing this crime; any supplying, furnishing, or providing of drugs will do.

The bill⁠—dubbed the "Protecting Rights Of Those Exploited by Coercive Trafficking (PROTECT) Act⁠—was introduced in late July and has already attracted some well-known sponsors, including Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), as well as Republican Sens. John Cornyn (Texas), Rob Portman (Ohio), and Thom Tillis (N.C.).

Portman sponsored the Senate bill known as SESTA (with the others signing as co-sponsors), which would be rolled in with House bill FOSTA to make facilitating prostitution through the web a federal crime. Like the SESTA/FOSTA package, the new bill would further expand the reach of federal prosecutors—just in time for the new "human trafficking coordinators" that are being installed at U.S. attorney's offices across the country. (That was also a Sen. Brown contribution. I guess now he has to give them something to do.)

In essence, the PROTECT Act would take two things that are already illegal on their own (selling illegal drugs and forcing people into sex or labor) and make them⁠—ostensibly⁠—more illegal together. This follows a trend seen with drug laws during times of panic. But what we've seen with the enhanced drug laws, and with laws criminalizing activity around sex work, is not police using them to bring to justice some previously untouchable or under-punished class of serious criminals. Rather, these laws work as threats in coercive plea deals and are often used against sex workers or drug users themselves.

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  1. Jesus H. Christ!!! What next??!

    Here's my prediction: Getting a hard-on while you dream at night, will be defined as "human trafficking"!!!

    (Especially if you are into dirty dreaming).

  2. I quit working at shoprite and now I make $30h – $72h…how? I’m working online! My work didn’t exactly make me happy so I decided to take a chance on something new… after 4 years it was so hard to quit my day job but now I couldn’t be happier.

    Heres what I’ve been doing… ,,,


    1. Remind me not to sell you drugs.

  3. Ok; every time I read an article on human or sex trafficking, it turns out to be persons trafficking themselves and customers paying for the service. And then the prostitutes get arrested, the customers get arrested and publicized so as to shame them and embarrass them in front of their families and communities, and that's pretty much it. It's then all justified with "no little girl wants to grow up to be a prostitute and the government and law enforcement are just right to do something about it.

    Does anyone here actually know who, how many, and where actual cases of "human trafficking" occur, in terms of people being taking against their will and forced into sexual slavery?

    1. As usual, who do you WANT to believe?

      This one might be relevant:

      Falsely inflated statistics about sex trafficking in the U.S. make bad policy and laws

      1. Thanks. That article reads like something that SHOULD have been published on this site.

    2. Also, the "woke folks" love to conflate! Survey women and ask them,
      "Have you ever been raped by a man using his penis or by using his eyes, staring at you with great, hurtful lust"?

      Personal anecdote: Shopping for groceries... I see a woman in a crazy get-up, and look twice, then walk away. While walking away, I just barely hear her telling me to "keep your eyes to yourself!"

      No response from me... No sense in challenging people who can't or won't think self-critical thoughts!

      Possible response if you feel like bothering with verbal self-defense in such a situation: "So then, you noticed me noticing you. You must have been looking at me! Keep your eyes to yourself, hypocrite!"

      1. "But the sex trafficking numbers currently bandied about, she said, are highly inflated by 'conservative groups'* and anti-prostitution advocates who view all prostitution as a form of oppression against women and fail to recognize that there are people in the sex trade by choice." [2012]

        *As I suspected; the wokes stole the narrative.

  4. What is it with Ohio senators? Brown is a poster case for term limits.

  5. Caffeine is a drug - I'm getting the death penalty.

  6. So a poor innocent drug dealer is now required to run background checks on all customers to be sure they are not involved in sex work? I can see someone at a Hollywood party passing a joint to someone else, who turns out to work porn on the side, and the first guy goes down for sex trafficking.
    Of course, when 'illegal substances' get removed form schedule one where it is against the law for them to be since they have proven medical uses, then what? #freeMaryWanna

    1. You scoff....

      But what of the Colorado pot shop? Is it now vulnerable to sex trafficking charges? What if some dude gives a stripper a hit off of his joint? Is he a sex trafficker now?

      The possibilities are endless. I'm sure prosecutors love this bill.

  7. Interesting how while we are supposedly repealing allegedly racist criminal laws from 30+ years ago that allegedly devastated non-white people, we are busily passing new ones that no doubt, 30 years from now, will likewise be called racist laws that devastated non-white people.

  8. This is an example of why I don't trust the government with "Common Sense" laws.

  9. So I can no longer help my cheap friends and family with moving or renovations for a lousy six pack?

    1. So long as you do NOT have sex with your "cheap friends and family", nor their belongings, or housing renovations (or construction tools!), you SHOULD be OK!

      However, this is Government Almighty that we're talking about here, so all bets are off!!!

      1. (Don't hold that reciprocating saw next to your privates too long, and let ANYONE see you doing it!)

      2. The bill actually amends 2 existing laws, related to sex trafficking and forced labor, so basically any labor in exchange for drugs is now illegal

        "Gas, Grass, or Ass" economics hardest hit.

        1. Dammit all to hell. If a trucker can't demand satisfaction from hitchhikers, I don't know want to live in this country anymore.

    2. I've come to the same conclusion. After all, alcohol is a "drug" by almost every definition. If this passes, offering beer in exchange for heavy lifting is actually going to be considered slavery.

  10. So, if I give my girlfriend acid and then she proceeds to jump me for sex, have I trafficked her?

    1. Worse, thats sexual ssault because she wasn't sober enough to consent. But sure, why not, it's also human trafficking as the added charge.

  11. selling sex workers to drugs would be trafficking not so much the other way

  12. This is how they plan to put us under the boot: Take our guns away, then pass more crap laws like this.

  13. The less strict of a definition, the more you capture. The more you capture the more you can say it's a problem. The more you can say it's a problem the more likely people will ask government to do something about it. The more people ask government to do something the more power the government gathers.

    Rinse and repeat until freedom is slavery.

    1. Kudos on an apt, short and sweet summary!

  14. I am guessing being an Uber driver and dropping off a prostitute to their corner will be considered "human trafficking" next. As an added bonus, this helps protect the legitimate Taxi cab drivers from being exploited and put out of work by those evil Sillone Valley guys, so it's a Twofer.

  15. Sigh....these oddly named laws (i.e. Patriot Act, PROTECT Act) rarely work out well. Just another added layer of bureaucracy. These are the types of laws that expand the encroachment of the Federal Government into areas they do not belong.

    Can we not simply enforce the individual laws consistently (it is wrong to use illegal drugs [note: I firmly support legalization of all illicit drugs], and it is wrong to sell another human being)?

    1. We have a full time legislature with too damn much time on their hands. Time to cut it back to a low paying part time job.

  16. Maybe the definitions section of the bill has something, but otherwise there's no such thing as an illegal substance. There are substances whose possession legally requires authorization, but the substances themselves can't be illegal, that'd be absurd.

  17. Someone needs to offer a small amendment to this bill, to delete the word "including" in the passages quoted above. That would have the effect of limiting its reach to actions that exploit or cause addiction. Think there's a chance?

  18. In breaking news having sex with your legally married wife could now be considered sex trafficking.

  19. Oh, come on, folks. We have to have a war on something. How else can congresscritters signal their virtue by writing stupid legislation?

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