The Corner

Wider Still and Wider

Mexico’s ever-increasing disorder is clearly not achievement enough for 2010: The drug warriors now want to extend their international reach still further with the miserable piece of legislation described in the Daily Caller here:

A bill headed to the House floor today has drug law reformers in a tizzy. Critics of the ominously named Drug Trafficking Safe Harbor Elimination Act of 2010 argue that passage of the bill could require American citizens to cancel their drug-fueled visits to Amsterdam, and perhaps prevent them from sampling the rich oily hashish of Northern Morocco.

“[This bill] seeks to authorize U.S. criminal prosecution of anyone in the U.S. suspected of conspiring with one or more persons, or aiding or abetting one or more persons, to commit at any place outside the United States an act that would constitute a violation of the U.S. Controlled Substances Act if committed within the United States,” the Drug Policy Alliance wrote on its Facebook page. “These penalties apply even if the controlled substance is legal under some circumstances in the other country.”

The bill’s architects beg to differ.

“If you go to Amsterdam on vacation and smoke a doob, you’re fine,” a senior House Judiciary committee staffer told The Daily Caller. “So long as it’s legal in the country where you’ll be.”

Sponsored by hard-line drug warrior Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, and cosponsored by California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, the Drug Trafficking Safe Harbor Elimination Act of 2010 will likely pass tomorrow despite the DPA’s argument that broad language in the bill could one day serve as an excuse to prosecute Americans for possessing drugs outside the U.S. The bill also has a counterpart in the Senate.

Regardless of what you think about drug prohibition, the proposed legislation raises an interesting issue of principle (and, for that matter, elementary diplomatic courtesy). The extraterritorial extension of domestic law is something that should always be done with great care and greater restraint. As is to be expected from almost anything that emerges from a Congress that is as arrogant as it is incompetent, neither quality appears evident here.

As for the comments of the “legislative staffer,” they can be roughly translated as, “We’re the government, so trust us.” I think we all know how that works out.  To the staffer’s credit, he is at least honest enough to concede that he cannot “technically say” that possessing a “a dime bag of marijuana” in Amsterdam  would not bring someone within the snares of the legislation, but he then goes on to ask “how is a law enforcement officer supposed to know that [about that possession]?”

Well, dumb Facebook posting would be a start, but that’s not the point. What really matters is that the toking tourist is forced to rely on bureaucratic whim, police forbearance, lack of discovery or luck if he is to be spared prosecution. So much for that whole country of laws thing.

Such convenient vagueness is, of course, a handy tool for big government types. I am sure, therefore, that we can expect those tea-party sympathizers already in Congress to oppose this bill.

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