Pubdate: Thu, 27 Apr 2000
Source: MoJo Wire (US Web)
Copyright: 2000 Foundation for National Progress
Contact:  731 Market Street, Suite 600, San Francisco, CA 94103
Fax: (415) 665-6696
Author: Matthew B. Stannard
Note: This on-line article contained links (in order) to the following:


A Bill Banning Internet Sites That Publish Or Even Link To Drug-making 
Information Looks Set To Sail Through Congress -- To The Dismay Of 
Free-speech Advocates.

Watch it. The article you're reading could soon be illegal.
Why? Because of this link.
Click it, and up pops a site advertising bongs, pipes, and other pot 
paraphenalia. The site is Canadian -- advertising drug paraphernalia is 
illegal in the United States. But if a bill passed by the United States 
Senate last year becomes law, it would also be illegal to link to that page 
with the "intent to facilitate or promote" its business.
Depending on a federal prosecutor's interpretation of "intent," that could 
make posting this article a federal crime.
It's one of the more disturbing effects of the Methamphetamine 
Anti-Proliferation Act of 1999. The bill, by Sen. John Ashcroft, R-Mo., is 
aimed at stopping the spread of crank. But it also has publishers, civil 
libertarians, and drug reformers arming for battle over free-speech rights.
"There's just no question there's a First Amendment issue," said Richard 
Boire, a California attorney and director of the Center for Cognitive 
Liberty and Ethics. "You're essentially getting into mind-policing."
As the title implies, the bill was designed to fight the spread of 
methamphetamine -- a goal so popular that liberal Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 
D-Calif., joined with her conservative sometimes-rival, Sen. Orrin Hatch, 
R-Utah, in writing one of the legislation's crucial sections.
Now awaiting action on a similar version in the House, the bill stiffens 
penalties for meth makers and includes money for busting labs and treating 
crank addicts. But it also tackles one of the knottier roots of the crank 
problem: recipies for do-it-yourself methamphetamine posted to the World 
Wide Web.
Such recipes are all over the Internet; some explain how to extract 
ephedrine from cold medicine, while others describe how to set up a basic 
lab. Still others exist as electronic protestors against the Ashcroft bill 

Law enforcement officials blame the online recipies for a rise in crank 
labs. Drug Enforcement Administration officials busted 1,627 labs in 1998, 
a number that has doubled over the past decade.

  In California, officials see even more action: They shut down over 2,000 
labs in 1999 alone. In fact, so much meth is brewed in California that the 
state exports the drug to the rest of the nation. As many as one-third of 
all labs busted by state officials come complete with a cookbook printed 
off the Web.
"Part of the reason manufacture of meth has exploded in this country is the 
Internet," said Ron Gravitt, clandestine lab coordinator for the state's 
Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement. "People that did not have the formulas now 
have them."
The proposed law aims to combat the problem in two ways. One attacks crank 
kits and users' tools, expanding the current ban on advertising drugs or 
drug paraphenalia to include "indirect" advertising, such as linking to 
sites that have such ads.
Officials of Internet service providers who fail to yank violating sites 
within 48 hours of being warned by authorities could face up to three years 
in prison if the bill becomes law.
The bill's other prong -- authored by Feinstein and Hatch -- is even 
simpler. It bans distributing, by any means, information on manufacturing 
any controlled substance -- if you intend or know that the person receiving 
the information intends to use the information to break federal law.
Critics call that censorship, a term Feinstein's people hotly reject.
"If you have people out there that are teaching people to do it with the 
intent that a crime be committed, (Feinstein) doesn't think that should be 
protected," said David Hantman, Feinstein's chief counsel. "You can't shout 
fire in a crowded theater, and you shouldn't be able to teach somebody how 
to commit a federal crime, either."
The language banning the distribution of information intended to help 
someone break federal law was copied from an earlier Feinstein bill 
targeting Internet bomb-making instructions. That language was ruled 
constitutional by the Department of Justice, although a test case has yet 
to hit the courts. As a result, many critics of the new bill say they are 
certain it will become law.
But the meth bill goes a step further than the bomb-making law, barring 
people from distributing drug manufacturing information if they know 
somebody else intends to use it to break federal law, even if the provider 
doesn't intend for them to do so.  	

That's a lot trickier, said Marvin Johnson, legislative counsel for the 
American Civil Liberties Union -- and it might not work.
"There's a very good First Amendment action arising out of that," Johnson 
said. "If I publish a book that says 'this is how you make 
methamphetamine,' I know that somebody is going to use that. That doesn't 
mean that I have the intention that you use it, but I'm putting the 
information out there. Am I now liable simply because I put the information 
out there?"
That question has drug reformers, civil libertarians, and publishers -- 
online and off -- frantically networking and packing war chests to stop the 
meth act or, failing that, to challenge it in court.
Much of that effort, ironically, is taking place via the Internet.
"The government has no business placing blanket prohibitions on drugs in 
the first place, and certainly has no business trying to restrict 
information concerning drugs, no matter what medium is used to transmit 
that information," emailed James Farrell, a director of the Lycaeum, an 
Internet drug metasite.
"Who judges 'intent' and 'knowledge,' and according to what  standards?" 
Farrell wrote. "Our intent in providing drug information is not to help 
people break the law, nor do we have specific knowledge of people using our 
information to break the law -- and even if we did, information on the Web 
is not targeted (to any specific individual)."
Especially active in the battle against the bill have been 
medicinal  marijuana enthusiasts, many of whom are confident the law -- 
which bans  distributing information on manufacturing any drug, not just 
meth -- is an  attempt to block pro-pot debate on the Net. Some of them 
lobbied in  February for an exception in the bill for online discussions of 
medicinal marijuana.

"I said, 'Hey, do you realize this would apply to information 
regarding  medical marijuana? Don't you realize medical marijuana is legal 
in  California?'" said Dale Gieringer, California coordinator for the 
National  Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. But when he posed 
that  question to Feinstein's staffers, Gieringer said, he was told "she 
was  comfortable with the language as it stood."
Feinstein's legal staff denies the bill was created to target medicinal 
marijuana sites, noting Feinstein successfully pushed for changes in the 
bill's drafts so it focused on drug manufacture, not drug use. The bill's 
intent clause will probably keep prosecutors from becoming overzealous in 
any case, they say -- assuming the bill even becomes law as-is.
"We're still listening to comments from individuals and others," Hantman 
said.  "She's certainly open to future changes."
That's not good enough for longtime medicinal cannabis advocate Peter 
McWilliams, publisher of the online Medical Marijuana Magazine and the 
online book "How To Grow Medical Marijuana."
McWilliams has already spent time in federal court over his advocacy of 
medicinal pot -- in November, he pleaded guilty in federal court to growing 
thousands of marijuana plants and selling the drug after a judge barred him 
from using California's recently passed medical-marijuana ballot initiative 
as a defense.
If the meth bill passes, McWilliams said he would remove much of the 
content of his sites rather than face more trouble.
"I'm obviously going to have to take my book off the market," 
McWilliams  said. "The First Amendment is now destroyed."  
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake