U.S. Drug Law Would Criminalize Speech and Apply Globally
As recently as the late 1970′s it was illegal for a priest to wear a clerical collar publicly in Mexico. When the Pope visited that country in 1979, (obviously while wearing his clerical clothing), the President of Mexico offered to pay his 50 peso fine.
That law is no longer in effect in Mexico, but imagine if it was. Imagine a scenario in which two priests in Mexico plan a visit to the U.S.A., and one mentions to the other that he will enjoy being able to wear his clerical collar in public. Now imagine that the Mexican police learn about that conversation and arrest the priests before they leave Mexico, not because they wore their collars in Mexico where it is illegal, but because they planned to wear them in America, where it it legal.
That scenario may sound like a far fetched variation on the themes established in George Orwell’s famous novel, 1984, but according to the Huffington Post story at the link above, a new law just passed the House Judiciary Committee would impose similar restrictions on American citizens.
The bill will soon come up for a vote by the full House of Representatives. It seeks to make it a federal crime for Americans “to discuss or plan [to engage in] activities on foreign soil that, if carried out in the U.S., would violate the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) — even if the planned activities are legal in the countries where they’re carried out.”
In other words, the supporters of this law want to impose U.S. drug laws globally, even in nations where U.S. laws do not apply. And they want to make it a crime to even discuss or plan such activities.
For example, as the article explains, if an American couple planned to marry in Amsterdam where marijuana laws are not enforced, and their plans included smoking marijuana at the wedding reception, the police could arrest them in the U.S.A. before the wedding even takes place, simply for planning it. And not only them, but anyone who had plans to play a role in the wedding.
It has become popular in some circles to say “Morality cannot be legislated.” That is not true, of course. All just laws are attempts to do exactly that. But where is the limit between the government’s role and personal responsibility?
Since the early 1930′s, America has been locked in an epic struggle between conservatives, who believe a healthy society requires restraint of government to the least possible involvement in individual lives, and liberals who believe government should play a role in most aspects of life. Based on the global reach of the U.S. government’s role in this proposed law, and based on the way it seeks to impose restrictions on American citizens’ speech and thought, we would expect the law to be proposed by a politically liberal politician. But the sponsor of the bill is Judiciary Committee Chairman Representative Lamar Smith, a Republican from Texas.
It will be interesting to hear what the conservative talk show hosts and the Tea Party have to say about this development.