The new law would make it a federal crime to plan activities on foreign land that would violate the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) even if the activities are legal in that country. To put it simply, if you are an American citizen and you smoke marijuana in a country where it is legal, you would be arrested when you return. It gets worse, you could be arrested for even talking about smoking marijuana in a nation where it is legal.
The “Drug Trafficking Safe Harbor Elimination Act of 2011,” allows prosecutors to bring conspiracy charges against anyone who discusses, plans or advises someone else to engage in any activity that violates the CSA, the massive federal law that prohibits drugs like marijuana and strictly regulates prescription medication. So if you travel to another country to try a prescription drug that could save your life, you would be prosecuted if that medication is illegal here in America. In fact, just e-mailing or texting advice to a vacationing friend on where to find a marijuana cafe or where to find a certain type of medication you would need an ID to access in the United States would be a criminal act. Essentially, this law would expand US law on a global scale, far outside the jurisdiction of American authorities.
The law is particularly concerning to civil libertarian attorney and author Harvey Silverglate. “Just when you think you can’t get any more cynical, a bill like this comes along. I mean, it just sounds like an abomination. First, there’s no intuitive reason for an American to think that planning an activity that’s perfectly legal in another country would have any effect on America,” Silverglate says. “So we’re getting further away from the common law tradition that laws should be intuitive, and should include a mens rea component. Second, this is just an act of shameless cultural and legal imperialism. It’s just outrageous… I don’t see any interest other than to a desire to impose our moral and cultural preferences on the rest of the world.”
So let’s say you’re planning a family get together in the Netherlands and a few of your family members express a desire to smoke pot during the vacation. Even if you do not smoke pot during the trip, the law would apply to every single family member and conspiracy charges would be levied against you. It’s a clear violation of the Constitution and it violates the sovereignty of the other nations of the world. Simply planning to do something legal in another country is NOT a crime. Sending an email isn’t either. This law is an egregious assault on freedom of speech and it shouldn’t have made it past the committee. Once again, Republicans think US law is global law.
They are also once again, committing hypocrisy. Many Republicans have been complaining about government attempts to pressure Switzerland to soften its privacy laws to help American officials to catch tax cheats and money launderers, something that would affect corporations and the wealthy. But if a middle class US citizen legally smokes pot in another country, Republicans think the full force of US law should apply. It’s a waste of money and time and shows just how imperialistic Republicans are. Next, they’ll probably make it illegal for Americans to speak French in France.