January 12, 2004

Drug War Censors

Ted Galen Carpenter at the Cato Institute points out how Drug Warriors Try to Censor their Opponents. Just another in a long list of civil liberties that are being quashed by over-zealous prohibitionists — "collateral damage" in the war on drugs.

Here's the scariest part:

The most ominous proposal for repressing pro-drug reform speech comes (not surprisingly) from the United Nations. The UN's International Narcotics Control Board has issued a report implicitly calling on member states to criminalize opposition to the war on drugs. Citing the 1988 UN Convention Against Illicit Trafficking in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, the INCB asserts that all governments are obligated to enact laws that prohibit "inciting" or "inducing" people to use illegal drugs and to punish such violations as criminal offenses.

If such a vague and chilling restriction on freedom of expression were not odious enough, the UN board contends that any portrayal that shows illicit drug use "in a favourable light" constitutes incitement and therefore should be banned as well. Since the report also repeatedly denounces medical marijuana initiatives as well as decriminalization or legalization proposals, even the most sedate advocacy of changing prohibitionist drug laws might run afoul of the censorship regime being pushed by the United Nations.

It is not reassuring that the U.S. government has pledged to cooperate with the UN group's global anti-drug efforts. Although Washington has not explicitly endorsed the censorship recommendations, neither has it stated that the United States rejects such proposals -- even though it certainly could have added that caveat. Indeed, one official pledged "absolute cooperation" with the UN's drug control programs.

Link from Hit & Run.

Posted by richard at January 12, 2004 01:28 PM

Our government has put four or five decades into demonizing the use of drugs, from its carefully drawn image of the "reefer-mad" Negro making off with your daughter to the latest public service announcement that directly links child drownings to the babysitter's use of marijuana. This latter scenario was carefully chosen: they left out the possibility that the little girl, left unsupervised, goes upstairs and reads an SAT primer, because "Go on and tell her parents she got into Harvard because you were stoned" doesn't have the same cachet.

So of course the government doesn't want anyone peddling heterodoxy on the drug issue. We're up to our necks in the War on Drugs: it's worse than Vietnam.

"Incitement speech" is unprotected, so they'll regulate it. The problem is that the difference between incitement and regular ol' political speech is baloney-thin. You can criticize the drug laws, but you can't encourage people to take a few puffs in protest. Well, actually you can encourage them to puff in protest, but you can't do it in a context where the puffs are an imminent possibility. The First Amendment should protect Americans, at least, who want to call for drug law reform.

This sort of thing is absurd to me, because it shows just how far we're willing to go to insulate what is essentially an economic regulation (or a public safety reg, like the lawn-dart ban or speed limits) from reasoned inspection. I wonder why the various governments are so desperate on this subject — is it because they've cultivated so strong an anti-drug sentiment in the electorates that they're locked into a hard line? Is it because so many powerful law enforcement agencies are so heavily resourced to fight the war on drugs? Or do drugs really more at fault for killing five-year-old kids than uncovered swimming pools, handguns, or alcoholic beverages?

What's the Netherlands' position on this UN treaty, anyway? Did they give it the Kyoto Treatment?

Posted by: Brad A. at January 12, 2004 05:41 PM

There's always at least one typo in every one of my posts. Must be the drgus.

Posted by: Brad A. at January 12, 2004 05:42 PM